Live Tiles are a core element of Windows 8 and Windows Phone, letting users glance at information without entering the app itself. But the lack of interactivity in these tiles limits their usefulness.
This could change in the future, if a new project by Microsoft Research comes to fruition. A demo of interactive Live Tiles shows how users could swipe through a Tile for more information, expand a Tile into a larger view, and jump directly into specific parts of an app, all by interacting with the Live Tiles on the Start screen.
As an example, researcher Jiawei Gu shows an expanded view of the Windows 8 Mail app, then taps on an e-mail subject to open the message. With the News app, Gu scrolls downward to reveal more stories. He also demonstrates expanding a music app to display song lyrics and using a camera Live Tile to snap a photo quickly from the Start screen.
The system is reminiscent of Google’s Android operating system, which already allows for interactive widgets. Users can swipe through news feeds, jump into specific e-mails, and control music playback without leaving the Android home screen. These widgets are a signature feature of Android.
Still, the Live Tile system goes a bit further by letting users temporarily expand the size of a tile by pushing a button. It also allows for interactivity across multiple screens and devices. For instance, Gu shows how interactive tiles from a laptop could run in a sidebar on a connected monitor. He also talks about having a Windows Phone scan an interactive tile on a nearby PC and grab the information, potentially letting users pick up a game from where they left off.
Because these interactive tiles are just a research project, it’s unclear whether they’ll ever be implemented in a future version of Windows. Even if Microsoft added this feature, it would likely create extra work for app developers. But at least it makes for a neat demo.