Hitachi Ltd. has developed a prototype named the “Waterscape,” a working mock-up of an information terminal that has no operational buttons on the surface of the body.
The “buttonless” form has been adopted in order to realize a simple and intuitive interface, according to the company.
Because the mock-up has an acceleration sensor built in the body, the user can browse various contents of texts, moving pictures, still pictures, or music by tilting or shaking the body as an alternate means of operating buttons.
Information delivered to the user’s PC can be transferred through a cradle (data transferring charger) to the Waterscape itself and it can process a content item in the form of a “bubble.” The user can easily browse such content items appearing on the screen by imaging bubbles bobbing up from the bottom by its floating force. This image is expected to help the user operate the device easily even for the first time.
The working mock-up has the acceleration sensor that detects the respective angles of its X and Y axes when the body is tilted. The detected angle information is to reflect the movement of a bubble. After the user finds desired content, then levels it to lead the “information bubble” to come to the central area of the screen. The bubble cracks open at a place for view where it comes nearest to the center area.
The user’s action or gesture of moving it serves as variables of the X-Y value combination, which can be assigned as a command. If the user wishes to close (quit) the information bubble, she needs to shake the Waterscape strongly for a certain period of time.
The firm said that it has put such an interface into practice — not an information device or a game machine.
According to Hitachi, it launched development of a special interface and design of an information terminal for “passive” users. Hitachi conducted group interviews with men and women in their early twenties, and from the results it found certain image of the typical user: they opt to merely receive various kinds of information that a digital terminal is feeding them rather than to seek it by themselves.
The size of the Waterscape unit has a radius of about 10cm, and has the round shape. Other details are not known. Hitachi has not decided on a plan for commercialization.