When I was technical editor of CADalyst magazine, I was awash in a surprising variety of input devices. Back then, the late 1980s, the mouse was new, and innovators tried improving on it. More buttons, better cords, vaster interface software... along with the anti-mouse devices, like digitizing tablets, button boxes...
During his opening speech last month for Autodesk Media Summit, company ceo Carl Bass recalled some of those old input devices, showing a button box in one of his slides. He said that the direct interfaces of today's tablets are so much better that those old physical ones. Hmm... what about the tactile feedback you don't get from smooth glass? (Button boxes are devices with lots of buttons, like of like function keys on steroids; push a button to activate a command or macro.)
Anyhow, I had to chuckle at this morning's headline from Macworld UK: "Turn your iPad into a control surface for Adobe, Autodesk or Avid's tools." The screen of the iPad looks like a button box gone 2D. iPad App for KillerKeys from Bella Corporation populates the screen with buttons to control AutoCAD and other software, along with simulated hardware controls like trackpads, volume and zoom knobs, and jog wheels. "Over 15,000 shortcuts, now all just a touch away," says the press release.
There are two two apps you'll need to pay for, one on iPad and the other on a Mac, and they won't ship until next month. Prices range from $10 to $90. For that price, I think I'll stick with a cordless three-button mouse and memorized keyboard shortcuts on my high-end Logitech keyboard.