Search Interface the future


A (brief) history

Interface: a definition


+ modes of information seeking

+ cognitive load


+ usability testing


+ faceted searching

+ displaying results

Challenges for libraries

+ public libraries

+ academic libraries

The future/Conclusion


"The look and feel of of the interface certainly count, but they play a minor role in comparison to intelligence" (Negroponte 1995, p. 159).

The next two user interfaces are not directly concerned with searching although, it is useful to see what has been imagined as a user interface and how these tools could be applied to searching. These interfaces are known as agent-based interfaces: interfaces which allows computers and people to communicate by using "size, shape, colour, tone of voice, and all the sensory paraphenalia" to convert "[bits] into atoms and the reverse" (Negroponte 1995, p. 159). The first video clip is from the MIT designed interface system titled "Put That There" which allowed users to manipulate images on a computer screen using spoken commands and hand gestures. Keep in mind, that this clip is from 1979.


(Stefanmart, 1979)

Now for an updated version of an agent-based interface. The resemblance between this system and that of the one depicted in the movie Minority Report is not a coincidence: both systems share the same designer. Although, the video does not show a search in progress, as music and video clips come to dominate the web, it is not difficult to image this system being used to sort through search results.

(Easton, K. 2008)

The pages included in this website were intended to provide the reader with an introduction to the burgeoning field of interface design for IR systems. In particular, the discussion has aimed to outline theoretical and practical approaches to interface design that may be of use to information professionals as they attempt to improve the search experience for users in the 21st century. In this sense, this site may be viewed as a tool-kit of sorts for public and academic libraries.

Some of the most thought-provoking visions of IR interface design in the future come from Science Fiction. In the Japanese manga and anime series Ghost in the Shell, for example, citizens living in the 2030s are cybernetically enhanced to access and search the net directly from their own mind. Search results are channeled through their visual cortex and are presented in their field of vision. While searching the web, they communicate verbally (via an internal mental dialogue) to AI bots who crawl the web on their behalf. Portrayals such as these add a new dimension to concept of the semantic web, and no doubt provide information professionals with much food for thought.

Such images of the future may be ambitious, but they are not new. Indeed, they echo sentiments expressed by Negroponte nearly 15 years ago (1995): "future human-computer interface will be rooted in delegation, not the vernacular of direct manipulation--pull down, pop up, click--and mouse interfaces (Negroponte 1995, p. 101). "'Ease of use' has been such a compelling goal that we sometimes forget that many people don't want to use the machine at all. They want to get something done" (Negroponte 1995, p. 102).

If you wish, you may download a pdf version of our slide show on this topic.

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Search Interface: In Your Face
By Lindsay Tripp and Neil MacDonald
LIBR 557: Information Retrieval Concepts and Practice
University of British Columbia, Vancouver BC
December 4th, 2009