[Point of VIEW] UIs for All People, on All Screens

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Today’s post is part of a monthly series exploring areas of focus and innovation for NI software.

 

http://www.ni.com/images/coreblock/col3/UI_graphs_and_charts.pngThe term “user interface” doesn’t adequately capture the depth of experiences we have while interacting with today’s mobile and desktop computing platforms that serve as portals into the evolving virtual world. Personally, I have never been more motivated by the trends in computing platforms with the web and cloud and radical innovations in UI ranging from touch to advanced visualizations of massive amounts of data. However, the fracturing of the Wintel monopoly creates a challenge for software developers of all kinds to be able to develop solutions that can reach all customers on all of the screens they use.


There isn’t really one technology that can deliver native, first-class experiences on all mobile platforms, all web platforms (aka browsers), and all operating systems. We are faced with a clear cost versus reach versus “native-ness” tradeoff.


It’s interesting to watch as key technologies like HTML5 rapidly adapt their core capabilities and browser vendors continue to optimize the performance of their JavaScript engines. There is massive potential in these rapidly improving Web technologies with strong use cases that not only provide traditionally-oriented controls and indicators for data visualization, but also have the power to support full “sovereign” capabilities like rendering and even editing LabVIEW diagrams themselves.


You can’t really talk about Web front ends without acknowledging the back-end server or cloud infrastructure with which the front end communicates. When NI looks at the world through the lens of acquire, analyze, and present in the context of the Web, we naturally map our presentation layer of VIs and controls and indicators to elements within the browser. However, the acquisition, storage, and analysis functions need to run server-side and server-side at scale with Big Data, or as we like to say, Big Analog Data. We are creating IT-friendly, server-side middleware that can manage the acquisition and storage of Big Analog Data and then provide Web-friendly APIs to that data so customers can quickly create VIs to visualize and analyze the data.


We are not only seeing massive shifts on the Web UI front, but also with mobile and tablet experiences, specifically around touch. For a language like LabVIEW, predicated on direct manipulation and a rich visual and spatial interaction model, we see a clear match between touch-enabled platforms, graphical programming, and interacting with your data.


We feel LabVIEW is the most touch-ready language on the planet and we think the best way to interact with controls and indicators for data visualization is also touch-based. Thus, we want to enable touch-based features for LabVIEW and touch-based features for your VIs. 


Today, the NI R&D team is simplifying a version of the LabVIEW editor, in collaboration with LEGO, which is touch-ready and tablet-friendly. The early prototypes in the lab are a delight to use and when you see and use it, I hope you agree. NI is well suited to map the beneficial evolutions of UI capabilities on the Web and in touch to engineers, scientists, and students and are working hard to do exactly that.


Stay tuned as we discuss more features the NI team is exploring for updates to NI software.

 

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Today’s Featured Author

David Fuller has nearly 20 years experience in software engineering and is currently NI’s vice president of application and embedded software. You can’t follow him on Twitter because he’s a software engineer.