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Telepathic User Interface


In writing an essay I'm working on about why hard disk video recorders are as novel as they are, I explored a concept I think is worthy of its own blog entry. This is the concept of Telepathic User Interface or TUI.

A TUI is a user interface that you use so much that it becomes unconscious. Perhaps the classic TUI is touch typewriter keyboard. I just think letters and they simply come out. I am no longer consious of the mechanism. In many cases I think sets of letters and even words and they just come out. From the mind to the computer -- telepathic.

Other examples include the car. After you drive a car for a while it becomes an extension of yourself. Learning the clutch is hard but soon you are not thinking about it at all. And the remote control on a Tivo, I write in the essay, has aspects of a TUI -- you learn how to move around a program without thinking.

A TUI is not always a natural interface or even a good interface. It's just one you use often enough to make it subconsious. It doesn't have to be intuitive -- an intuitive interface is simply one that's easy to guess the operation of.

When it comes to computer software, this helps us understand the dichotomy between the GUI/WIMP style and the command line and keyboard style which still has many devotees.

GUI interfaces are easy to learn, and easy to guess. And of course for positional inputs they are markedly superior and often the only choice. But by and large, the story of Mice and Menus took a path away from the TUI. You have to focus your eyes on the pointer in order to use a GUI, and you have to read to use a menu. It's much more difficult to use such a system unconsiously. (Mouse gesture interfaces change that a bit.)

Fans of text editors like VI and Emacs, with complex, non-intuitive keyboard interfaces love them because they have reached TUI state, at least in part. Many of the operations have become unconsious, and thus much faster and easier as far as the user is concerned.

Command line interfaces are never completely TUI, but they take advantage of the TUI nature of touch-typing. Because touch typing maps words from brain to screen, complex commands can have a fair bit of TUI to them.

It is a rare technology that can earn a TUI. You need to be using it a great deal, and regularly. Video games also develop TUIs because of their devotion. And while it doesn't seem to matter how intuitive the interface is, since many users will never attain the TUI state with a program, that's no excuse for trying to be more intuitive and easy to handle.

On the other hand, programs that don't provide keyboard shortcuts and other muscle-memory schemes for doing things will never develop a TUI, no matter how heavily used they are. Who changes a font in the Excel spreadsheet without being conscious of all the steps they are taking?


Wow... I must be a complete idiot because this whole entry doesn't make any sense... but its still hot to see that there are smart guys out there!

There's a book on this called Where the Action Is: The Foundations of Embodied Interaction. It's all about applying the principles of phenomenology, especially Heidegger, to user interface design. It's fairly simple if you're familiar with that branch of philosophy. But it is quite interesting. Probably calling this "telepathy" isn't the best term. It's akin to driving the car where you don't think about doing the driving. You just drive. It is as if you and the car are a single body functioning as such. The book is by Paul Dourish and is worth getting if you are in computer programming.

Telepathy really is not a good term to use here.

Other than that - yep, keyboard is great. Once you learn not to use the mouse, you can get things done much faster. At least the common tasks.

You've identified typical properties of a TUI (sic) interface:
* Does not rely (entirely) on vision
* Is often non-intuitive or (unnatural at first)
* In the long run, outperforms non-TUI

It is interesting that TUI is a slow starter, but a sure winner. Come to think of it, modern high level programming languages are non-TUI.

And command line interface IMO is very very much TUI. Not only in the typing part. Sequencing tasks also happens without thinking. Ha, you can even type ahead, try that with a mouse!

While a mouse may be non-TUI for changing a font, it probably is TUI for, say, moving a window. Although, I can only wish to have something as TUI as sheets of paper (be it handwritten or printouts) on a desk... Will the digital desktop ever be able to match that? Well, you can see something like that envisioned in the Minority Report.

You've only described intput interface (mouse, keys).

I'd like to describe what looks like a true *input* //non conscious// interface.

I talk about an interface you may consciously totaly forget while using, as you said.


Recently, some scientists made experiments of eyes replacement interfaces for blind people. Instead of trying to connect living nerves (gosh!), they've simply designed a small wired little stamp to put on tong. Human tong is so inerved that this stamp may transmit data to brain in a broad band way.

Experiments have shown adult blind people can learn very quickly how to "see" their environnement through this tong-stamp-device connected to a wearable cam.

Still better, non-blind people have tried to use this stamp-for-tong interface too. It's giving them the filling to have a fifth sens.

All this stuff may be involved in terrible applications.

I think most TUI's might end here : !!

I am a software engineer that makes 6 digits, however if someone designed a truly telepathic connection to computers, I would instantly shift gears and dedicate a lot of my time to deveoping software around it and probably eventually quit my job. I know that's not what the writer is talking about, however that in my opinion would be the final evolution of user-interfaces. is a start to being able to think about mind-controlled computers, however I'm talking about something much more advanced. At the minimum, as a start, we could have a computer where image, smell, hearing would all happen to an E/M device preferably not directly connected to our body. However, I want us to go beyond that. I want the computer to take INTENTION and work with that.

E.g., Assuming the mind-body is a connection between non-matter and matter (e.g. the brain is a transceiver of abstract thought) and the mind is more than just brain then what I'm talking about is something that could tap into that mind-body connection.

I know that personal experience isn't scientifically applicable, however I am psychic and telepathic and therefore I am pretty sure that we have a non-corporeal mind simply through my personal experience and believe that we will someday discover how that works. I just do it but don't know how (much like we walk). I really don't have the interest in trying to figure that out. Instead, as a software engineer, I hope I'm still alive the day someone figure that out because I will start writing user-interfaces to utilize that connection asap.

In the meantime, if someone could develop a fully immersive connection (that stimulates sight, sound, etc without a peripheral) then I will probably work with that since it's probably only a step away from the real thing.

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