Microcosmographia by William Van Hecke

Technology should be more considerate of your eyes

I just had an eye-opening conversation with my coworker Robin about hardware and OS advances we would like to see Apple introduce. First we were talking about obvious stuff like how to incorporate multi-touch and stylus input on the desktop. But then I started complaining about backlit displays, the way they bombard your eyes with bright white light all the time.

I thought that what I wanted was some sort of fast-refreshing, high-color-depth e-paper. But Robin pointed out that in the end it’s still all just photons, and the display should be able to simulate the correct brightness and temperature. Of course! Macs and iOS devices already use ambient light sensors to adjust the screen brightness. First of all, they need to get better at this. My iPad is way, way too bright in a completely dark room and requires manual adjustment. But they also really need to detect the ambient light temperature. Like the site for f.lux explains, computer screens are designed to look like the sun — but at 10PM, “you probably shouldn’t be looking at the sun.”

Better adaptation to ambient light conditions should be incorporated into the operating system for every device with a backlit screen. It should use a camera to get really accurate information about your surroundings. The more I think about this, and the potential benefits to billions of people’s eyesight and sleep patterns, the more it seems like a moral responsibility for technology companies.

And, as Robin pointed out, this could knock down the greatest advantage the Kindle has over iBooks on the iPad: comfort. If they could get iBooks looking even 50% closer to what an actual e-ink display would look like in the same room, with the right number of photons at the right color, what a huge competitive advantage it would be. Suddenly I want this more than any other advancement.