Saturday, 14 April 2007

Ultrasmall or just ultratricky

Devices designed for mobile computing are getting ever smaller but humans are not, so when will designers manage to hit the sweet spot between small enough for portability and big enough to use and interact with?

Ultramobile computers, such as this Sony Vaio UX Premium, show the difficulty in making small PCs usable. Watching users fumble and nearly drop an early version of the FlipStart compact PC practically gave Robin Budd a heart attack. The users were simply trying to press the three-key sequence, Control-Alt-Delete.
“They would be holding the device in one hand, and they would try to get their three fingers on the keys at one time,” said Budd, senior director at FlipStart Labs. “You can do it if you’re fairly nimble with your fingers, but it’s sort of a tippy, precarious thing.” What was the solution you might ask: well the designers created a dedicated key marked “Ctrl Alt Del".
The smaller the device gets the better the interface has to get but really how small can they go?