"NUI: What’s in a Name? Perspectives from the Past and Future" Bill Buxton

  • 02 Nov 2010
  • 6:30 PM - 8:29 PM
  • University of Washington, Sieg Hall 134

Bill Buxton presents "NUI:  What’s in a Name?  Perspectives from the Past and Future"


Natural User Interface, or NUI, is one of the favourite flavours du jour in certain interaction design and user experience circles. On the one hand, the term signals a change from the Graphical User Interface, or GUI, that has been prevalent since the early 1980s. In many ways, that is good. Not that the GUI is going to go away (any more than the QWERTY keyboard, I predict). But progress does, as they say, progress. And just because there was a great idea that took hold, does not mean that that is all that there is.

But beyond the name, what is this new thing? As far as I can see, the answer depends on who you ask. Ask enough people, and you will see that it can mean anything - which means, by the way, that it might mean nothing. I don’t view it that way. Yes, there are a lot of diverse views. But that also means that there is a lot of diverse conversations accompanying them, and I see that as healthy. Complacency is rarely a worthy aspiration for design. But out of the collective conversations one would hope that there is some convergence - which might be another term for insight or growth.

In my discussion, I take my cue from nature itself, and the observation that almost anything that we see above the surface is supported by its roots.  As it is in art, music, painting, and other cultural phenomena, so is it in interaction design:  the future began long ago, and understanding those past futures is critical to understanding future roots.

As for understanding NUI, it is simple – as simple as nature itself.  And as complex.  And as important.  Which is why it is worthy of discussion.

Here are the details:

6:30 - 7 pm Social and light refreshments

7 - 7:15 pm Announcements and updates

7:15 - 8:15 pm Presentation

8:15 - 8:30 Q&A


Bill Buxton is the author of, Sketching User Experiences:  Getting the Design Right and the Right Design, published jointly by Morgan Kaufmann and Focal Press as well as a columnist on design and innovation for BusinessWeek.com.  He is Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and has a 30 year involvement in research, design and commentary around human aspects of technology, and digital tools for creative endeavour, including music, film and industrial design.   Prior to joining Microsoft, he was a researcher at Xerox PARC, a professor at the University of Toronto, and Chief Scientist of Alias Research and SGI Inc. – where 2003 he was co-recipient of an Academy Award for Scientific and Technical Achievement.  In 2007, he was named Doctor of Design, honoris causa, by the Ontario College of Art and Design, in 2008 became the 10th recipient of the ACM/SIGCHI Lifetime Achievement Award for fundamental contributions to the field of human-computer interaction.  In January 2009 was elected a Fellow of the ACM, in June was awarded a Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, by his alma mater, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, and that November was awarded an honourary doctorate in Industrial Design from the Technical University of Eindhoven, the Netherlands, which in 2010 also elected him to the position of Distinguished Professor in the Faculty of Industrial Design. Also in 2010, BusinessWeek named Bill among the World’s Most Influential Designers.  Finally, Bill is passionate about the outdoors, especially mountains (summer and winter) and tripping in his birch-bark canoes.


More information on Buxton and his work can be found at:  www.billbuxton.com

Location Info:


You can park in the C1-C5 garage. The entrance is through Gate 1, at 15th and 41st.

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