Oliver Hamann released a new version of his futuristic user environment called Eagle Mode. But the most interesting news is probably his project philosophy. There he lists pros and cons for replacing most of today’s user interfaces by zoomable user interfaces. But unlike others, he don’t want to replace the concept of desktop windows.
Could Zoomable User Interfaces Be the Future?
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2008-11-02 11:57 pmNicholas Blachford
A minimum 3.4GHz/core is a bit of a heafty minimum.
What did they write it in? treacle?
2008-11-03 10:57 pmNicholas Blachford
Aside from my sarcasam, I actually think it’s a very interesting and potentially very useful concept. It’s exactly the sort of thing Apple would pick up and turn into something beautiful.
Edited 2008-11-03 22:58 UTC
2008-11-04 6:24 amIan Christie
Despite my comment farther up, ZUI’s have a lot of potential. A compact screen like Netbooks, PDAs and smart phones could benefit from this sort of system.
“It’s a UNIX system! I know this!”
2008-11-03 3:22 amniemau
i said that to my boss the other day… apparently he doesn’t like dinosaurs. he just gave me a dirty look and walked away.
Zoomable interfaces definitely have a future (especially if you provide multiple ways to drill-down/zoom your data), but using it in the file system case is just plain wrong.
What Eagle Mode is basically saying is that putting a file into a subdirectory shrinks it. That’s not the way most people understand subdirectories. People understand the tree metaphor. People understand the nested file folder metaphor. The shrink metaphor doesn’t fly.
2008-11-03 2:50 amJonathanBThompson
You’re just not visualizing things in perhaps the way they’d expect you to visualize it: there’s no reason that shrinking visual representation of files as they’re added to a file is illogical, if you consider the concept that the root of the filesystem is the absolute top-most view, or aka “30,000 foot view” and all levels below it have a sense of perspective that makes them look smaller from a distance: thus, the lowest level on the filesystem tree, until you’re in it, looks some degree of much smaller, until you descend the filesystem tree, and treat that as conceptually coming in for a landing onto a lower level, or just skimming along the top.
If you take that sort of perspective into account, it’s at least as reasonable of a way of viewing a filesystem as the current desktop idiom, since that’s not a perfect visual-spatial interpretation of what really happens, either: when you open a single folder that has other things in it, you don’t extend them out to n levels of depth and stack them in windows or trees automatically, do you? Not to mention… I’d find it very unusual if there are any real-life folders of items that have 8+ levels of nesting, like a Russian Doll mating with a filing cabinet of documents.
I just saw a segment on 60 minutes about BCI (Brain Computer interface) for those who suffered from Lou Gehrig’s or Strokes as a means for communication, navigation, etc. They basically created WMP interfaces for typing, and moving cursors around a screen. It’s slow, and relatively accurate. I wonder, though, if ZUI’s would help speed things up.
Imagine zooming in on a Letter ‘A’ instead of waiting for the lettr to scroll by, or moving a cursor to it to “click” on it. Seems like it could be more accurate,, and potentially even faster since you’re breaking the alphabet into quadrants, narrowing down the available choices by zooming in.
2008-11-03 10:15 amLaurence
I just saw a segment on 60 minutes about BCI (Brain Computer interface) for those who suffered from Lou Gehrig’s or Strokes as a means for communication, navigation, etc. They basically created WMP interfaces for typing, and moving cursors around a screen. It’s slow, and relatively accurate. I wonder, though, if ZUI’s would help speed things up. Imagine zooming in on a Letter ‘A’ instead of waiting for the lettr to scroll by, or moving a cursor to it to “click” on it. Seems like it could be more accurate,, and potentially even faster since you’re breaking the alphabet into quadrants, narrowing down the available choices by zooming in.
Gnome already have something like this. Can’t for the life of me remember it’s name, but I’m pretty sure it’s part of Gnomes default package.
2008-11-03 2:54 pmvelko
Yeah. It’s called dasher and works pretty well when you get used to it:
It should be “he doesn’t want to replace the concept..”, unless you want slang on the front page.
There are users who cannot think outside of physical metaphors. If people have trouble with the idea that the same file (not a copy) can be in multiple directories (because it doesn’t match the physical metaphor), they’re likely to have trouble with the concept of recursive zoomable windows.
There are also developers who have trouble making good UIs for people other than those like themselves, and insist on using cross platform UI toolkits. UIs designed by such people will either take poor advantage of the opportunities provided by zooming, or most likely no advantage at all.
I have a strong suspicion that these kinds of people make up the vast majority of computer users.
There are also applications that have what is essentially their own UI metaphor which may not even match the OS they run on, and users have invested time in becoming proficient with them. Rewriting such applications to take deep advantage of zooming is likely to piss off current users, and visually change the application to the point where it’s identified as another brand.
So while ZUIs (a name I despise and hope doesn’t catch on) are a semantically stronger metaphor, I’m not sure how big a financial incentive there is to invest in them.
I certainly hope there’s one.
I have been using the iPod Touch, which has the same user interface as the iPhone. I am utterly impressed.
I was always a bit skeptical of user interfaces on such small devices. I used an origami, various PDA’s, etc…
But the Apple devices is the first one where I have to say I am impressed. I could see how such a user interface could be very interesting.
It definately looks interesting but could use some more refinement, which I’m sure they’re working on.
However, usability for an average computer owner is probably limited by the minimum specs. A minimum 3.4GHz/core is a bit of a heafty minimum. Hopefully that minimum will come don a little in the future.