Shake, Dictate and Scroll Your Way Through Mobile Menus

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In the near-constant battle between form and function, mobile phones hit a point where they could shrink no more. But with the launch of touch screen devices and voice interfaces to bring out the power in those mini-computers, they are now hitting new usability highs. I chatted this morning with Collin Cole, who is SVP of frog design, a division of Aricent, here in Austin, about the future of user interfaces on mobile devices.

Cole summed up the problem faced by carriers who want to find ways to make it easier for consumers to find and access revenue-generating data services such as weather reports, sports scores or video on phones. Phones have limited surface area in which to convey a lot of information, which leads to lots of menus and a lack of visibility. We talked about touch, which the iPhone popularized in 2007 as a good means for navigating top-level menus.

However it’s frustrating for tasks such as emailing or typing — areas where voice excels. We also talked about the use of gesture as a potential means of accessing information, but Cole admitted that’s still experimental. He pointed to the latest iPod nano, which allows a user to shake the player to fast-forward through songs, but said he didn’t know how that would work in a phone. Check out the seven-minute video below for a quick tour through the mobile phones and the various types of user interfaces.

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