Pointui – touch for when you don’t have fingers – acting agnostic

January 9th, 2008 | by dnw |

Recently I was made aware of a program called Pointui while scanning Frank Arrigo’s blog (hi Frank). I thought it sounded interesting if for no other reason than the screenshot looked to provide bigger buttons. So I visited the Pointui site.

Pointui is a interface layer for Windows Mobile based devices. It adds larger icons in a re-organised arrangemet as well as a different mode of access and gestures. I was pleased to see they had a .cab install option so downloaded the app and it installed flawlessly. It’s very impressive and I was delighted to be able to use touch type features like dragging to perform scroll actions.

One thing that that I find odd is dragging down to move a list up, and vice-versa, which just seems a backwards action to me – especially seeing the sideways drag bar on the home screen actually moves thewayyou drag it. A minor thing and I left a message on the Pointui forums wishlist, along with others ideas and comments. Obviously this product has a way to go but it also has a bright future.

But this app is more significant in another way than just bringing drag style gestures, ala iPhone, to devices that don’t need the resistive properties of a human finger to work. That’s righ, I can use my stylus, mouthstick, fingernail or whatever – even my skin. Ok, so this is part of te hardware design, but previously all these interfaces seem to go the route of using hardware that requires skin.

This app demonstrates something I wrote about on Lifekludger back in 2006 in a post titled “Simplify Convergence” about the secuphone and again last year in “More simple cell phones for life” about the emporia brand “life phones”.

The issue both those posts and this about Pointui revolves around is the emerging need to build a means of simpler access to the ever increasing complex devices being developed. Besides providing simpler access to the functions within the device, often, if these small devices are to be used with a finger, they’re going to require larger points of contact.

I think if these interfaces can be customised so that the features and individual commonly uses can be accessed easiest then that enables even better access. It comes back to building interfaces that are open in such a way that enables the end user to arrange the functions in the manner that best suits them. This requires letting go of long held ideas (often blinkered) that are based on the assumption that all people are created with equal ability and have the same needs and therefore way of accessing the device.

My friend JP sums this up brilliantly here in a post where he says:

we will need to understand a lot more about open architectures and reusable components before we get there; we will need to be much more agnostic about devices and platforms before we get there; and we will need to have understood the importance of enfranchising an army of people currently sidelined by our incompetence.

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