A decade ago, the language didn’t even exist. Flicking, swiping, and pinch-to-zooming were all miracles the first time you tried them. Now, they’re a collection of verbs that your daily life couldn’t live without.
Gabriele Meldaikyte is a student at London’s Royal College of Art. As a master’s project, she created Multi-Touch Gestures, which captures the physical movements behind the iPhone’s famous gestures in a series of quirky, mechanical machines built from acrylic and wood.
“I believe that in ten years or so these gestures will completely change,” Meldaikyte writes. “Therefore, my aim is to perpetuate them so they become accessible for future generations.”
It’s a disconcerting thought, but any touchscreen gesture really is but a firmware update (or court order) away from eradication. So Meldaikyte dutifully turned these 2-D digital movements into 3-D analog experiences that can stand the test of time. To scroll, your finger powers a series of pulleys, which drive a newspaper article that’s been printed on a belt. But flicking, of course, is ever so different than scrolling. So that’s represented by a pointed gear attached to a flipbook. The way you can turn the page is, well, by flicking it.
Pinch-to-zoom is powered by an ingenious scissorlike lever, which moves a magnifying glass up and down. Swiping looks something like a real-life Google Map crossed with a Ouija board. But interestingly enough, tapping was both the “easiest and the most challenging” gesture for Meldaikyte to render. Ultimately, she built a sort of acrylic keyboard, nodding to the gesture’s roots in keyboard technology.
Meldaikyte’s work sits in an interesting place. It’s both archival and futurist, academic and a bit silly. But these gesture-driven artifacts don’t feel nostalgic, retro, or, better still, vintage. Without Apple’s own design tropes permeating the artifacts–there’s not a speck of black plastic or aluminum to be seen–they become a more objective cultural criticism that sits outside the iPhone’s own reality-distortion field.
“I would like to make people realize that by using smartphones and touchscreens, we are losing connection with most of these tangible objects,” Meldaikyte tells Co.Design. “If that’s good or bad is personal opinion.”