We’ve been thinking about user interfaces the same way for a long time. You’ve got a menu full of buttons, and you tap or click those buttons to do things. It sounds pretty simple, and many people think that it’s a formula that doesn’t really need to be improved. Microsoft is not comprised of these people. Always content to outdo itself, the people at Microsoft have registered a patent for something called a Multiple Stage Shy User Interface, or MSSUI. This “Shy” user interface is meant to change the way that we approach user interfaces, primarily on our smartphones, where screen real estate is absolutely precious.
Here’s the gist: Instead of tapping your screen when watching a movie and having all of your DVR-like options pop up right there for you, Microsoft’s goal with MSSUI is to break everything down into a minimalist package, presenting more options, but only presenting them to the user when they indicate that they’re interested in using said options. Detection of intent here is described only loosely, citing “three-dimensional (3D) touch or hover sensors that detect the presence, position, orientation, direction of travel, or rate of travel of a pointer (e.g., user’s finger, implement, stylus, pen).”
In short, by using various sensors to detect the intent of the user, the device will be able to determine what the user means to do, and show only the relevant UI elements. For example, in the example figures shown above, the user is initially looking at the basic play, pause, and rewind buttons – when they hover over the play button, however, the irrelevant UI elements fade away, and the user is left with two fast forward buttons and a skip button.
Using this “shy” interface, Microsoft plans on re-inventing the wheel in a way that’s really quite interesting, and, providing it makes its way into Windows 10 and Windows 10 Mobile within the next year or so, could make for a shift in the way that people view UI design and make us value our screen real estate more.