In a recent post on the Leap Motion blog, Alex Colgan discusses the influences that fictional user interfaces (read ‘user interfaces depicted in movies’) have on the development of motion controls being developed today. He draws on examples from Minority Report, Ender’s Game, and The Avengers to illustrate his three main points. In short, these are:
- Successful motion controls ‘make us feel powerful and in control of our environment’.
- Successful motion controls keep the user in a state of flow.
- Successful motion controls leverage immersion and ‘anti-immersion’ well.
Human beings seek optimal experiences, where we feel a sense of exhilaration–a deep sense of enjoyment. In these intense moments of concentration, our ego disappears, time stands still. Art. Sport. Gaming. Hacking. Every flow activity shares one thing in common: a sense of discovery, a creative feeling of transporting us into a new reality to higher levels of performance.
Many people who speak of flow (Colgan included) only discuss flow as occurring in creative activities, sports, gaming, and the like. Need this be the case? Is enabling a flow state really only a goal fit for user interfaces built for entertainment and gaming (as Wigdor and Wixon might have us believe?)
Csikszentmihalyi says no. To support this (drawing from his thousands of interviews with not only creatives and athletes, but also CEOs, shepherds, and the like) he describes seven indicators that one is in a flow state:
- Completely involved in what we are doing–focused, concentrated.
- A sense of ecstasy–of being outside everyday reality.
- Greater inner clarity–knowing what needs to be done, and how well we are doing.
- Knowing that the activity is doable–that our skills are adequate to the task.
- A sense of serenity–no worries about oneself, and a feeling of growing beyond the boundaries of the ego.
- Timelessness–thoroughly focused on the present, hours seem to pass by in minutes.
- Intrinsic motivation–whatever produces flow becomes its own reward.
While I don’t disagree that gaming and entertainment interfaces should aim to be conducive to flow, I’m convinced that flow has a place outside of the latest Call of Duty release. In my work, being completely involved in what I am doing, having inner clarity, having confidence in my abilities, finding serenity, being excited and motivated to do my work are all certainly desirable and achievable. Furthermore, I would hope that the tools I choose to do my work are conducive to these, as well. While NUIs, on the outside, may seem most appropriate for gaming and entertainment, no one has yet convinced me that these are the only applications where they are appropriate. And, if they are especially capable in enabling flow, we should be considering ways to incorporate them in all manner of UI.