Tuesday, January 3, 2012

EDUC 8848: Module 2 Posting - McLuhan's Tetrad and the iPad

The iPad: if you haven't heard of the iPad by now, then you are most likely living in a cave in some remote region of the world. The learning community I am working with chose to explore this emerging technology through McLuhan's tetrad. As an emerging technology, the iPad has had a profound influence on the technology market despite the short amount of time it has been on the market. A number of software applications have been rewritten to accommodate the iPad, while other new applications have been introduced to take advantage of its capabilities. In addition, other companies are beginning to introduce touchscreen tablets based on the iPad's success. While the future of the iPad is uncertain, it will no doubt be remembered as having a significant effect on computing.

The iPad is revolutionary because of the way in which it challenges the typical human-computer interface story. It is far more mobile than a laptop, yet almost as powerful, rivaling smart phone capabilities. Furthermore, Apple's application-based system coupled with touchscreen interface narrows the gap between user and technology, providing a more kinesthetic and contextual level of interaction. All of this makes the iPad a much more versatile and personal experience for computing, which in turn will, at least in theory, help integrate the iPad into people's day to day lives more seamlessly.

The iPad has also challenged the notion that smaller, more streamlined technologies are suitable only for consumption. The iPad provides a highly powerful yet compact technology for creation with a wealth of applications developed specifically for this type of task.

I find it unlikely that the iPad will replace desktop or even laptop computers, at least not within the next 20 years. There are still tasks and operations that require much more processing power and screen real estate than the iPad can provide. However, the iPad will obsolete netbooks rather quickly. The simplistic design coupled with a revolutionary interface herald the demise of stripped down laptop computers intended for surfing the Net.

The revolutionary interface represented by the iPad is actually a throwback of sorts. The notion of direct interface with a task or operation has laid dormant since the introduction of the keyboard and mouse. Yet, many people still crave the tactile sensation that comes from manipulating an object or a technology in a direct manner. The iPad reintroduces that ability, providing users with more direct interaction experiences. This is perhaps particularly intriguing for games and simulations. Already we are seeing the introduction of hybrids that incorporate more tactile gaming experiences. In 2012, Nintendo will introduce Wii U that relies on a tablet-like interface as a game control. This functionality will enhance the already popular motion gaming trend, adding additional momentum to the re-introduction of direct experience.

The iPad represents a significant leap forward in further minimizing the distance between the user and the technology. I see it as a step in the direction towards direct user input through neural interface. As I look across the evolutions, I see the technology becoming more and more integrated with our physical forms. I suspect that it will not be long before the technology is directly integrated into our biology. While this may sound like science fiction, consider how various technologies such as bluetooth headsets and motion capture gloves are more and more commonly employed.

1 comment:

  1. Raymond. Your description under enhances was very insightful. I did not look at the connection and sensory impact of the iPad and the user.