I'm not a gadget freak. I'm too poor, and too anti-consumerist to obsessively spend my time reading Gizmodo et. al. and lusting over the latest gear.
However, this weekend I bought myself a present.
As you can see from the reviews, this pen-instead-of-a-mouse is at the decidedly cheap and cheerful end of the market. Nevertheless, I'm enjoying using it. I've played with the paint program and it's fun. And I'm adapting myself to using it instead of a mouse for all activities.
Well, last year I did get very impressed by this interactive whiteboard demo. And here's something even more spectacular. Obviously a pen-mouse isn't in the same league as cool interactive whiteboards and giant touch-screens, but the important common element is the use of fluid gestures in your interface.
And that is something you can't really explore with a mouse but you can begin to with a pen. Flying around Google Earth with the pen feels different from the mouse. Whereas the mouse involves basically waggling the wrist, the pen brings in the forearm and elbow too.
A mouse is normally only about going to a place and selecting it. Typically, objects which are static and visible on the screen. A pen can be about how you go to a place. The dynamic movement of the body. A gesture is something which can be always available at your finger-tips without cluttering up screen-space with a visible representation. (OK, that makes it harder for the naive user, but can make the UI more clean and elegant.)
I loved teaching with a whiteboard (and never used PowerPoint). Whiteboards work even more of your body. I guess the Wii controllers are going to make the body the issue in video gaming too. The hype almost guarantees that this will be a big theme of this year.
Last year, I started doing "Bamboo", a kind of locally developed mixture of yoga-like stretching and climbing exercises. I'm still a fat, lazy, geek hunched over my computer, but I'm starting to become more conscious of my body and its movements.
Even I'd like to have my computer require more physical movement. I'd like to be able to program the way I scribble on the whiteboard in front of a class or in a meeting. I don't have cool giant touchscreens but at least I can get a cheap pen and start to play with the idea of gestures in my software.