This AR-powered interface might change the way we use our phones

This AR-powered interface might change the way we use our phones
The way we interact with our smartphones has gradually changed over the years. We've seen physical keyboards and navigation keys vanish from newer generations of handsets as manufacturers race to squeeze ever-larger screens into devices while keeping them relatively compact. 

The latest step in this evolution is the gesture-based interface present on Apple's all-screen iPhones and Android Pie. One can now multitask and switch between apps with a single swipe of a finger, which effectively eliminates the need for any navigation keys. While these gestures are undoubtedly more convenient for cruising through your device once learned, it turns out there might be an even faster and more intuitive way to get things done. 

Special Projects, a U.K.-based design and invention consultancy, has come up with a new smartphone interface that emulates how we organize and perform tasks in real life. The company's Magic UX solution cleverly uses augmented reality to "attach" different apps to a fixed space within the physical world. 

For example, if you're writing an e-mail, you can assign several different app spots in the space around you. If you want to copy or add information from the apps into your composition, you can just drag and drop it by moving your phone from one location to another. This allows you to get things done quickly without constantly swiping and scrolling through the Recents tab or app switcher.

"In the real world," explains Special Projects cofounder Clara Gaggero Westaway  "we use our desk space to organize ourselves — our computer, pen, paper and so on — but we rarely use this physical space to navigate the digital world. The way humans behave can really enrich our digital interactions, and that’s what inspired us to create Magic UX."

The great thing is that you can also move metadata such as calendar and map entries in addition to text and pictures. Also, there's no limit to the number of apps you can "pin" in such a way. Another valuable feature of the AR-powered interface is that it can save your virtual desktops and remember the exact location in which you created them, meaning that you can have instant access to the set of apps upon arrival.

"On a smartphone, alternating between tasks can often feel unnatural and disrupt workflow. With Magic UX, we aimed to transfer physical behaviors into the digital world, making the process seamless," says Adrian Westaway, Director and Co-founder of Special Projects "As a member of The Magic Circle, I've used the same methods magicians use when creating illusions to ensure we've created an effortless and enchanting product experience."

While Magic UX might not completely substitute the gesture-based interfaces of today, it won't be too far fetched to think that some version of the software could be integrated into iOS and Android at some point. At a first glance, the concept appears to be both sensible and simplistic, and we wouldn't be surprised if it attracts the attention of the big players in Silicon Valley. That's precisely what Special Projects is aiming for, as the company reports that it has patented the technology and is in talks with several leading tech firms with a hope to integrate it into every smartphone OS.

If you want see Magic UX in action, feel free to check out the video below. After watching, please let us know what you think in the comments section below! Do you like the idea or would you prefer sticking with your current way of navigation?



5. blastertoad

Posts: 57; Member since: Jul 17, 2018

This is a problem of the phone / Tablet / Slate form factor, and yet everyone defends it due to familiarity or because they lack vision. Once we have inside out tracking AR glasses or other hands free interfaces that move with us we will have a much more natural multitasking environment. But current phone form will always be limited in acceptable or portable size and form factor.

4. piratestation

Posts: 32; Member since: Jul 18, 2012

This is a nice idea, especially the drag and drop feature! However, I can see the problem where people won't remember where they "attached" the app and they'll be moving the phone around looking for that gallery app, messages app, etc.

3. Sparkxster

Posts: 1278; Member since: Mar 31, 2017

Quite intriguing ux!

2. worldpeace

Posts: 3135; Member since: Apr 15, 2016

Need two hand to "tag" place, and big movement to switch between apps. Normal gesture will be faster if you already used to it, and dragging Pie's home bar is also faster way to switch between two apps. That drag and drop still a nice thing (even though I don't think I'll ever need that), combine that with Pie's home bar, one finger holding picture, other finger dragging home bar to switch app, that will be neat. But split screen still a better solution for this kind of stuff.

1. looneyhouston

Posts: 49; Member since: Apr 10, 2014

This is the immediate future for sure!

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