back to article Microsoft's 3D Jedi phone explored

A never-released Microsoft phone has surfaced, providing a glimpse of how Redmond's designers proposed to evolve touch-based user interfaces. The "McLaren" phone, which was cancelled just months before its scheduled launch in 2014, responded to 3D "Jedi"-like gestures, which subsequently surfaced in the "Mix View" patent …

  1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    Anyone else reminded of that bit in H2G2 about controlling consumer electronics with a wave of your hand?

    1. stucs201

      You mean this bit?

      "A loud clatter of gunk music flooded through the Heart of Gold cabin as Zaphod searched the sub-etha radio wave bands for news of himself. The machine was rather difficult to operate. For years radios had been operated by means of pressing buttons and turning dials; then as the technology became more sophisticated the controls were made touch-sensitive--you merely had to brush the panels with your fingers; now all you had to do was wave your hand in the general direction of the components and hope. It saved a lot of muscular expenditure, of course, but meant that you had to sit infuriatingly still if you wanted to keep listening to the same program. "

      1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

        I was going to comment "Cue relevant Douglas Adams comment, you know the one" but you beat me to it. Maybe we should have an index to save time. I think this should be number three or four after the bit about the whale and the marketing department of the Sirius Cybernetic Corporation and whatever that other one is that you happen to like.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Jedi-like gestures

    was that phrase coined to make it sound cool?

    Instead of touch, what about sound? What if you could 'swipe' by making the sound of a light sabre? Obviously guys are going to be better than girls with this interface.....we also make better gun noises too, and cars.

  3. gryff

    Looks like a Nokia innovation, the way they used to be done....

    This is *exactly* the sort of innovation that used to happen all the time at Nokia.

    Some of it would see the market, some would go through several iterations before getting to market. We were always trying and testing out ideas.

    The point wasn't to capture massive market share, but to capture "mindshare" - spark interest, see where it goes, use the halo to flog other things, see if the market caught up or if it was a niche curiousity.

    Today, we are still waiting for a new, true innovation to hit the market. There's been nothing new for years. The iDroid duopoly just serves up warmed over ideas from the past two decades and not very well warmed either. Neither duopolist is striking out into unexplored territory, which McLaren clearly is. No one is pushing new paradigms into the market.

    I think the concept was already being experimented with in 2012, so this would have been the first productised version.

    Satnad probably asked how many would be sold. Answer: "Doesn't matter - its a flaming torch in the dark wilderness, lighting the way for future stuff."

  4. Kobus Botes

    Wave your hand and hope....

    Yep. I thought it was funny when I recently saw a test drive of the newest S-class M-B (or was it the 7-series BMW?), that uses gestures to control the radio (to change the radio volume you twirl your index finger in the air clockwise or anti-clockwise).

    I think it is silly to replace functional knobs that have been working excellently for many decades, with air-controls. In fact, it went silly when rotating knobs were replaced by buttons that you have to hold down in order to change volume or the frequency; it can take a long time to manually find a station, and the volume is almost always never exactly right. It is either too soft, or too loud at the next step up.

    As far as that is concerned, I think the most usable radio is the one in my wife's VW Caddy; it is electronic, but has actual manually operated knobs that you can turn to change the volume or station, if need be.

    1. The Original Steve

      Re: Wave your hand and hope....

      That'll be the BMW I would have thought.

      Exactly the same thought went through my head when I was test driving a few. The 5 and 7 series have it (or as an option) but you should still have the same physical controls as before.

      I think the same of ripping out all of the main console and replacing it with a single large touchscreen. When driving you rely on tactile feedback. As you rightly point out, switching a station or changing the volume can be done without even moving your eyes with traditional dials and buttons. Soon as you need to press a precise small section of a 8" plastic screen you're going to need to take your eyes off the road ahead. Same if wiggling a finger in the air at the right place - but now it's in 3D rather than the 2D touchscreen.

      How that's progress I have no idea. Hardly a technical innovation, just a gimmick in the more expensive cars as far as I'm concerned.

      All of that said, I would have liked the OPTION of what this phone appears to have on my phone. Seems like a nice optional extra. The last two words in that sentence are key.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Wave your hand and hope....

      "I think the most usable radio is the one in my wife's VW Caddy; it is electronic"

      Don't tell me the days of steam radio are finally over.

    3. GitMeMyShootinIrons

      Re: Wave your hand and hope....

      If you're worried about employment opportunities for all the redundant, unused knobs out there, don't be. Most became project managers.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Wave your hand and hope....

      OOO ERR ! But plus 1 for knobs!!!.

      I HATE most modern car radios, millions of tiny buttons labelled in even tinier writing; the perfect way to crash and kill yourself!!

      My old Clarion had it right, push, click and twirl a single know for all the most commonly used functions.

      Of course current Clarions are useless, mine cant even switch to a traffic announcement without taking a few minutes* lie down to read the USB device and start playing it again, something the Chinese can manage in a £28 ICE unit (just a pity the sound output is shite).

      *Yeah, I said MINUTES; it takes about 2 seconds per GB and my in-car USB device is a 128GB thumb drive. The cheap Chinese unit will start playing at once, and catalogue the file list in the background.

    5. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Wave your hand and hope....

      I've got a caddy and the radio is indeed relatively easy to control - if you dont have two early teen girls who delete your settings and a misses who seems to think traffic news from the whole world should interrupt the funny bits on r4!

      Is has recently taken to showing a star in between a couple arrows. It was never there before and is not mentioned in the manuals and is really getting my OCD ccts overloaded. I may have to drill a whole in that bit of the screen to get rid of it!

  5. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "UI – which hasn't changed in almost a decade."

    There's usually a reason why that happens.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

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  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wait? When was this developed/is it patented?

    I hope not, because my Note 3 has this. I'm not sure if the Note 1 or 2 did. I can use the hover gesture with the pen, and the hand gestures with apps. (Swipe left/right for photo gallery etc)

    1. Nate Amsden Silver badge

      Re: Wait? When was this developed/is it patented?

      I think samsung killed those in newer phones.

      I have 2 note 3s (using one now). Those were one of many features that has stayed off the whole time inhave owned them. (Note 3 is the only android smart phone I have owned. Before that was webos and before that blackberry)

      When the note 5 came out I went out and bought another note 3.

  8. Joerg

    Microsoft can't design a UI anymore...

    Since the Metro/ModernUI plague Microsoft has been unable to design a usable good UI.

    And this proves it once again.

    All their UIs just plain suck. The flat thing for them is just a way to go ultra cheap than not even an alpha prototype crap software should look so bad.

    1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

      Re: Microsoft can't design a UI anymore...

      Cheap? Do they have a version of Photoshop that charges them every time the apply a drop shadow? The flat thing is Microsoft trying to do stylish and failing miserably because it's just not in their DNA.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    5 months down the line from this

  10. Kanhef

    Interesting idea. Since it seems to have trouble with too many things moving at once, I wonder if it would work better for desktop monitors and large, fixed displays rather than phones.

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