Joho the BlogWill tablets always make us non-social consumers? - Joho the Blog

Will tablets always make us non-social consumers?

I know that tablets these days are “lean back” devices on which we “consume” “content.” (“When Life Becomes All Scare Quotes: ‘Film’ at 11”) But I keep hoping that that’s because they’re at the beginning of their tech curve.

After all, we’ve shown pretty convincingly over the past fifteen years that if you lower the barriers sufficiently, we will flood the ecosystem with what we want to say, draw, animate, video, carve, etc. Tablets raise those barriers significantly: I do much less typing and even less linking when I’m using my tablet (a Motorola Xoom, by the way — love it). But that’s because typing on a virtual keyboard is a pain in the butt.

I thus think (= hope) that it’s a mistake to extrapolate from today’s crappy input systems on tablets to a future of tablet-based couch potatoes still watching Hollywood crap. We’re one innovation away from lowering the creativity hurdle on tablets. Maybe it’ll be a truly responsive keyboard. Or something that translates sub-vocalizations into text (because I’m too embarrassed to dictate into my table while in public places). Or, well, something.

The fact that we’re not sharing nearly as much when we use a table is evidence of a design flaw in tablets.

I hope.

14 Responses to “Will tablets always make us non-social consumers?”

  1. […] tablets always make us non-social consumers? Share […]

  2. […] tablets always make us non-social consumers? Share […]

  3. Stop using a crappy tablet and you’ll soon find out that typing on a REAL tablet (read iPad) is painless and efficient . Grow up.

  4. I suspect the answer will be predictive input.

    There is, as they say, nothing new under the sun. Predictive input solved the problem for phones (as predictive text), and for PDAs.

    Waaaay back when I had a string of Palm devices, I used some software which predicted words based on my own usage frequency, adapting by weighting words as I wrote more. It had no context awareness, but it was still pretty good.

    Similar technology is now on Android – look for the SwiftKey X Tablet keyboard. You can feed it your sent emails from GMail, your Facebook messages and Twitter messages – and even an RSS feed – to improve its initial accuracy.
    It looks at the last word you used, and picks your most frequently used next one based on what you’re typing.
    (The other day, this actually picked every single word in a sentence for me after about . It’s slightly scary when that happens, even if it’s for a platitude!)

    The next stage might be to give the application context awareness based on text no entered (e.g. the comment/message you’re replying to) in order to get those words that you’ve not entered before but you still need.

    It’s not perfect, but history shows that smarter predictive input is probably the solution for any device with a constrained input mechanism.

    The only fly in the ointment is if you have multiple users of the tablet – in which case, we need profiles! ;-)

  5. Bobby demonstrates why disengaging is not always a bad thing.

    I have a 10.1 inch ASUS TF 300 with docking keyboard. I can be as engaged as I wish. But I really don’t have it for engaging (I have my computer for that). Its purpose is to be my research machine, where I upload all my documents for ongoing research efforts.

    So tablets are whatever we want them to be, including portals for social media. And not.

    All they are is a device.

  6. A “design flaw” in “tablets?” No, I don’t think so. Given that the current conception of tablets is courtesy of Apple, I would say, “working as designed,” given Apple’s politics around control, and becoming gatekeepers of a consumed, metered, non-co-created culture.

  7. I also had some excellent software on my old Palm machines which modern systems have yet to match. It was called TextPlus. It was very easy to add, not just words, but also phrases. This picked up the pace more than you might believe.

    I agree, though, that we need a better text input interface. Personally, I’d like to see my entire screen covered with a transparent overlay, so my keys can be full-screen. I typically use a compact keyboard on my phone because the individual buttons are too small to hit, quickly AND accurately, with a full keyboard. Having the keyboard become transparent and full-screen would fix that.

    Secondly, I’d like to see the keyboard setup with a square or hexagonal pattern so that you could “stroke” through multiple letters in rapid sequence. That way, commonly used sequences would become gestures. This would require abandoning the familiar QWERTY layout.

    Done properly, you could do some pretty rapid text input WITHOUT needing text prediction software. Add that to the mix. Give your on-screen keyboard the ability to plug in words and phrases with a single tap.

    Oh, and for God’s sake, get the mobile browsers to do a better job with textareas. They are somewhere between painful and useless on mobile browsers.

  8. “…we need a better text input interface”

    I really like handwritten input on the Windows tablet. It took a bit of training (and my handwriting got neater), but it beats using a keyboard. Now if they’d just hurry up and get some new, lightweight ones on the market…my old 7.5 lb Toshiba’s getting pretty worn.

  9. Be careful with reading headlines. I thought this was going to be something about a new drug (tablet) that changed how we socialize. And I read it to find out it is about plain old computers.

    p.s. I still prefer typing on my computer, as evidenced by my conference notes last week taken on the laptop instead of iPad. (I did one session on iPad, but prefer typing on full keyboard.)

  10. […] Joho the Blog » Will tablets always make us non-social consumers? wr. I know that tablets these days are “lean back” devices on which we “consume” “content.” (“When Life Becomes All Scare Quotes: 'Film' at 11?) But I keep hoping that that's because they&… […]

  11. […] I’m too embarrassed to dictate into my table while in public places). Or, well, something. via Joho the Blog » Will tablets always make us non-social consumers?. I suspect that the idea that input systems on tablets are crappy will rapidly become a tell-tale […]

  12. Bobby is a bit over the top in his rhetoric, but he’s correct at the core. Checkout the new iPhoto for iOs, or Diet Coda (coming soon) to see how iOs apps are starting to learn how to use tablets as fully interactive devices. Once the iOs world has it worked out your android devices will get backported or copied versions for you to use.

  13. chording glove?

  14. I think Dave betrays a text bias, and his choice of platform has limited his exposure to all the other forms of creation and sharing taking place on the dominant tablet platform. To the extent that there is less “evidence” of sharing from tablets, it is an artifact of the social media platforms that happen to be the dominant “sharing” media today.

    Photography, drawing, music, other forms of graphic design don’t require “keyboards,” and often lend themselves to the tablet interface better than conventional computer interfaces. iPhoto being one recent example, Garageband is another. There is an abundance of creative applications on the iOS platform, though most of them having their “sharing” tied to FB, Twitter and G+, or e-mail.

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