The most intriguing thing about Apple’s rumoured tablet isn’t its form factor or potential to reinvigorate print media, it’s the one piece of information no one seems to know: How will we interact with it.
If the New York Times knows what they’re talking about, and they should, then interaction with the tablet will be what blows everyone away.
That very important tidbit of information came to the Times via a “recently departed Apple employee” and showed up buried in a December article in the paper. “You will be very surprised how you interact with the new tablet,” the source said.
And I couldn’t stop thinking about that.
We’ve heard that the touch interface will be much more precise in the tablet, but touching and Apple go hand-in-hand these days. Voice control could be upgraded as well, but the iPhone 3Gs already introduced a rudimentary form of that, so not a real stunner if it happens.
So what then, could be this surprising new way of interacting with the tablet?
For a possible answer let’s go back to the Wall Street Journal and an article that ran late last week.
Their sources tell them that the tablet will feature a built-in camera and that the camera will be able to recognise a user by his or her face. Now we’re getting somewhere.
The ability to recognise and log in a user based on face recognition can be found in another future looking bit of gaming technology: Microsoft’s motion-sensing Project Natal.
Perhaps, the tablet’s surprising new interaction is its ability to sense motion through a built-in camera. Imagine laying the device on a table and playing games on it as you would a Microsoft surface computer. Touching to interact, but also motioning above the device to interact.
While most developers are steering clear of talking about the tablet this week, at least one developer source tells us that Electronic Arts’ efforts to create games for the tablet have been met with surprising success.
While the tablet suffers from some framerate issues, we’re told, developers at EA feel that the tablet will be a “superb games platform” with better graphics capability than expected and a surprisingly sharp touchscreen.
One game being worked on at the publisher allows gamers to move a map with one hand and do the “mouse work” with the other using a combination of multitouch and “gestures”.
That’s the sort of interaction with a tablet that I would find surprising.
Sure, there’s not nearly enough evidence to say gesture controls through a camera will be the big surprise, but we’ll know for certain tomorrow.
Make sure to come watch our coverage of the Apple Press Conference tomorrow live on Kotaku.