While companies like Apple are moving away wholesale from faux real-world objects, one designer wants to take the concept to its extreme. Chris Harrison from CMU's Future Interfaces Group thinks modern, "flat" software doesn't profit from our dexterity with real-world tools like cameras, markers or erasers. To prove it, he created TouchTools, which lets you manipulate tools on the screen just as you would in real life. By touching the display with a grabbing motion, for example, a realistic-looking tape measure appears, and if you grab the "tape," you can unsheathe it like the real McCoy. He claims that provides "fast and fluid mode switching" and doesn't force designers to shoehorn awkward toolbars. So far, it's only experimental, but the idea is to eventually make software more natural to use -- 2D interfaces be damned.

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Experimental UI equips you with a virtual tape measure and other skeuomorphs