Thursday, March 16, 2006

Neat UI

I came across an "in development" application the other day called Low Fat

http://macslow.thepimp.net/?page_id=18
The problem:
Todays file-management interfaces are more or less the same for the last 10 years. Ok we have thumbnail-previews in our icons to reflect the actual file-contents, but it is still only a stand-in or substitution for the real thing. But it's not very real-world-like, where you have e.g. a bunch of photos or document-sheets that you just can look at to see what's in them. It's not really a seamless experience. On the other hand there are desktop search-tools like beagle and Spotlight, which help us find the kind of things we are currently interested in from our huge heaps of personal data. Thus we don't see the unhandy clutter of hierarchical file-systems. Would it not be great if the computer could show us just the stuff we currently interested in, in a natural fashion where there's only our documents and hardly any UI at all?
A solution:
Enter 'lowfat'. Its goal is to bring that life-like and natural display to the desktop, alongside with a flat hierarchy of our files, when combined with todays search-engines. The aim of lowfat is to be an engine to view and handle your documents with lifebehaviorhaviour allowing for example to seamless zoom, pan and rotate them. Furthermore it should support the user by making sorting and arrangement - according to certain criteria - of the currently viewed documents available.
Current (and even not so current) hardware is capable enough to allow these kind of things. Common graphics-hardware and CPUs are mostly idle during general desktop-usage, when you are looking through your files in your file-manager. This processing-power can be put to good use by 'lowfat'.

http://macslow.thepimp.net.nyud.net:8090/projects/lowfat/preview-1.swf

Which got me thinking, how long do we have to wait for some decent "revolutionary ideas" in UI compared to just evolutionary plodding in the last few years.

Lets face it, how far have we really come from the days of windows 3.1?

I mean I know Vista is a big project, I know that it takes a lot of time and energy (and money - but Bill, once you get to $50B it's hardly a competition anymore) to develop a new operating system and it looks like MS is only going to be developing these every 4-5 years but realistically when was the last time you saw some type of information presentation that you thought "neat" that's something I can use.

I mean we've all seen Minority Report and everyone apart from techno neophytes fell in love with two handed control and whilst I dont believe three dimensional will be available today it's good to see that multi-input touch screens are finally coming onto the market
http://www.cycling74.com/products/lemur

or even better Jeff Han's work which is out of this world and should be funded immediately
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zp-y3ZNaCqs
http://mrl.nyu.edu/~jhan/ftirtouch/index.html
but to be honest without the UI developments this hardware will never be developed.

One of my favourite applications that i use at least on average about evey 5 mins when I'm online is Sensiva (www.sensiva.com) or check out my post from last year http://deancollinsblog.blogspot.com/2005/10/sensiva.html

I know for me I would love to have my monitor built into my desk. A great big 80cm touch screen (under glass so when I spill my coffee I dont jump out the window).

Being able to interface via touch will add new dimensions to multi-file control.....some companies will get it and develop the interfaces to deliver, some wont (I'm talking to you Mr Benioff at salesforce.com with your crappy document manager tab).


If you could change the way you work with your computer what would you want to see?

Is it voice, is it manual interface, is it a two handed single plane mouse, is it multi-input touch screen?

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