Interaction is a kind of action that occurs as two or more objects have an effect upon one another. The idea of a two-way effect is essential in the concept of interaction, as opposed to a one-way casual effect. I attended my first Physical computing class keeping this Wikipedia definition in mind. We designed a fantasy device called as the mind clip where we tried to define interactivity by defining a cyclic system where one person can read the other person’s mind by interacting with the clip.
However, the true meaning of interaction was understood after dwelling upon Chris Crawford and Bret Victor’s theories.
As rightly said by Chris Crawford, both actors in a conversation must perform all three steps ( listening, thinking, and speaking) well.
The first example that I could think of was of the Cerebro, a device that the X-Men use to detect humans, specifically mutants. Cerebro amplifies the brainwaves of the user. In the case of telepaths, it enables the user to detect traces of others. I thought of this to be an example of interactivity but it isn’t as there is involvement, engagement but the system cannot understand and interpret the human capabilities and respond to it.
Another example is that of a vending machine. In this system we can find the machine responding to the needs of the human. However it lacks dialogue, thinking and understanding the user.
The designed object should hold our attention tenaciously. Pop up story books also referred to as interactive books. But in reality there is no response from the book , nor is the response of the reader recorded in any way. The pictures are in three dimension which merely add to the visual experience of reading the book.
Bret Victor’s brief rant is an eye opener to the fact that Visions give people a direction and inspire people to act, and a group of inspired people is the most powerful force in the world.
Making things great is not just about delighting peoples’ senses, but can produce a measurable gain. In a world where there are lots of choices that all achieve much the same thing in the same amount of time, to look and behave exceptionally is a differentiator that counts. If I were to define interaction, I would say meeting the human needs by amplifying human capabilities and involving pleasant micro-interactions, which will lead to a series of signals from humans to machines (both the actors) and vice-versa. The biggest factor to achieve interactivity is empathy — the art of placing yourself in other people’s shoes.
“With an entire body at your command, do you seriously think the Future Of Interaction should be a single finger?” I agree with this statement of Bret Victor in full measure.
We need to establish interactivity in our culture. The question is how to prioritise on things when all you are given is ambiguity.