Fantastic, let's move on.
Multi-touch makes an excellent parallel subject, when talking about larger touch interfaces. I've personally grown to dislike majority of multi-touch implementations because they seem to be driven by technical capability to track, rather than supporting the way we use our hands.
Yes, I think there's two kinds of multi-touch. The first type is related to the task itself. You need to use both hands simultaneously for the same task to succeed. Hold the nail and use the hammer. The second type is related to individual hand operations inside that task. Pinching a nail with at least two fingers, and gripping a hammer with up to five. The latter is the most common use of multi-touch to implement a pinch/spread-to-zoom for example.
Ok, two types of multi-touch. Two-handed task type and multi-fingered operation type. There is no need to discuss about how many fingers you need to do something, because then you're focusing on wrong things. And I feel many existing interfaces are limited to only the operation type, because they're not focused on user tasks, but in something completely different. Not to mention forgetting totally what our hands are capable of.
So, I ended up with this definition because there wasn't really anything tangible behind existing multi-touch interfaces, in the mobile OS space. At least I haven't ran into anything that made sense. What I've found abundantly, though, is a lot of complexity that multi-touch can help to add. It's very easy by introducing more and more fingers on the screen, and mapping that to do yet another thing in the software. The amount of needed fingers has lately gotten kind of out of hand. Pun intended.
If you need more than 1 finger to move around in your OS, you should seriously look at the interface architecture and feature priorities.
"But with multi-touch , I could have an OS feature to directly alter orbits of celestial objects and.."
No. Stop it. You'd be still browsing, watching videos and gaming. And the only celestial object you know is Starbucks. Stop looking at increasing OS features, and pay more attention to enhancing user potential.
Alright, apologies for the slow intro. This is where some illustrations comes into play, and hopefully make more sense of the multitasking stuff above.
designed to be less dependent on display sizes than other mobile operating systems. This is because the most common user interactions are not depending on the user handedness, hand size or thumb reach, so the gesture based interface naturally allowed one-handed use of a smartphone sized devices.
"Hah, you can't really use a huge device comfortably with one hand, so your one-handed use benefit is lost then?"
Yes and no. The same way that Sailfish OS made a small interface fit into a single hand, it makes any larger interfaces fit two. This opens new ways to interact with larger devices due to the analog nature of touch gestures.
We should also understand that people are very liberal in how they use and hold devices in real life environments. In commute, at home or during a holiday trip. Most of the time, it's resting against something, and simply hold in place with one hand.
My tool comparison is holding a nail in the other hand and a hammer in another.
The nail is ready to be hammered in.
cover action to play/pause/skip a song with the right hand as an example. Releasing left thumb after interacting with any active cover, would keep user in the application 1 (first image). That's a fast way to look into Home (just like on the phone), perform an action (enabled by the larger screen) and get back to the app. All without even really leaving it.
Alternatively, if user would tap another application cover, or trigger a cover action that requires a full-screen state, the screen real-estate would be divided between the two. The nail has been hammered in, and user is back to default state that precedes the next task.
pinch a nail and hold/carry a hammer). When they're performed together, a different task is completed (a piece of wood is attached to another). Just like we do so many things with in our physical environment. I wanted to focus on illustrating the task type, because there are countless examples about the single hand multi-touch, the operation type.
The value in all of this, is that the entire interaction sequence is built into the same application usage behavior, without any additional windowing modes or mechanisms that need to be separately activated and used. It supports the way we work and enhances our natural potential. After all, you don't turn your hand into a separate mode when you're driving nails into planks of wood. No, it's the same hand, all the time.
Similarly, when you need to reach something from a tool drawer, you will not physically enter the drawer yourself. You wouldn't fit. Instead, you stand next to it, open the desired drawer and pick up the tool you needed, before closing it again. The Sailfish OS peek gesture is doing exactly the same on larger screens because of multi-touch. Exposing another location (Home/events = drawer) with the other hand, to see what's there and perform a task (trigger an action = take a tool) with another. All without actually going to that location.
That's what multi-touch should be.
Something that focuses on enhancing our potential, instead of enhancing features we are required to use.
conventional button approach, that many Android devices use, exhibit another problem in enforcing a hand preference in controlling the device. As you can see from the image above, the left hand is not able to reach notifications on the right, and similarly the right hand struggles in reaching Home, back and task switcher buttons on the left.
It's not about changing the interface between a phone and a tablet. Tasks are anyway the same. It's how the two-handed use is enhancing our potential through the increased touch screen area.
Don't try fitting an existing multi-touch solution into your interface, but think how an interface can handle both one- and two-handed use.
Then, the rest will find their own places naturally.
Thanks for reading and see you in the next post. In the meantime, agree or disagree, debate or shout. Bring it on and spread the word.