Thursday, March 26, 2009

Ok now, What's holding up Multitouch??

In my work, I do a lot of Illustrator and Photoshop digital rendering. While, I admit, a lot of this work is just straightforward and brainless imaging for transportation engineers, who pay me to make their presentations communicative and client-worthy, I really enjoy this work. I find it therapeutic. And engineers pay me well for it (well ok...they pay my firm well). I never pass up every opportunity I have to make Mulkey and URS happy, however minor the job.

However, as one who has to slog through this process with a mouse, I'm also highly sensitive to all the many inefficiencies represented by a point and click system.

To explain better: A quick review of my process. First I start with a "Before" shot of the existing site (in this case a residential street before widening):

...I then take this image into Illustrator and begin sketching out a perspectival scene of the street widening and related infrastructure improvements:

...While it seems that the above image must be easy to sketch out straightforwardly, as one would on paper, in reality, it is not. Literally, every curve and bend has to be applied in Illustrator in a two fold process: plot the vertices and then define the curve, point by point. While I get efficient doing this, by clicking and dragging the mouse, I could be doing so much better if I had two fingers at my use to do the two step process simultaneously. I also add gradient effects and base colors to my geometrical "base shapes" in Illustrator, a process which is also, once again, an often laborious point-by-point process involving a series of onerously layered dialog boxes that are obviously the inventions of labyrinthic left-brain type people.

The next step is to take the shapes back into Photoshop to improve gradients, add texture/raster effects and to superimpose photos of trees, vehicles, bikes, etc. Below is a typical image that is the end result of my work:

While I think of Photoshop as a "spongy" tool, in which shapes are really just layers of raster fields, every tool in Photoshop has to be controlled by dialogue boxes and preset definitions. You have to define your brush "diameter", paint transparency, and so on, in a way that no artist who uses a brush actually USES a real brush. What if we had a screen that could read the pressure you applied on it and adjusted the thickness of paint in a corresponding fashion? A multi-touch solution could use one hand to define the brush thickness by drawing two fingers closer and farther apart, while the other hand served as a brush. There are many limitless possibilities here to improve the speed of production just by creating a multitouch interphase with the user...While it may be complicated for users to adopt, I grant you the speed of adoption and adjustment to new techniques will be faster than left-brainers think. SURE its complicated to use two hands, but Bozo, that's what artists do. Like musicians, we can learn to train all our digits!

I literally CANNOT WAIT for multitouch screens to finally start appearing in architecture offices. I am very eager to chuck my mouse out the window. So what is the hold up with the revolution? Why aren't multitouch screens already revolutionizing the office? I estimate that a skilled multitouch modeler or renderer is going to be at least three times more productive than his point and click counterpart (if not ten times - 10 fingers will always beat the mouse).

As someone who enjoys enjoys painting and sculpting, I'm really sensitive to what I could be doing with all of my fingers involved on the screen. Why don't my colleagues get this? I find it thoroughly befuddling...

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