I’ve been thinking about 3D desktops, alternative user interfaces, and user experience for a while now. I keep a sketchbook that has illustrations of some of my ideas. When I saw the Apple patent filings for their 3D desktop ideas, I was delighted to see that some other folks have very similar ideas to mine.
I hate 3D for the sake of 3D. When I think of adding a new dimension to something as vital as your desktop, many questions come up like:
What benefits does adding another dimension mean to the user?
Am I making certain tasks harder when I add another dimension?
What problem am I solving?
Watch this quick video on some of the ideas I’ve been tossing around.
The Mac OS spaces have never made sense to me. I never use it, not because i haven’t tried. I’d rather stick to my dual monitor. But when I am out and about with only the 1 screen, I still don’t use it. Here’s why – When I put something in another space, I just forget about it. It’s out of sight – and out of mind. I rather just have tons of apps on one screen and use Expose to sort it out.
Having a shoebox/diorama analogy of multiple desktops makes more sense to me since I can zoom out and see where my other spaces are. I have a sense of the spatial relationships of multiple desktops as well and that is key.
Cover Flow on the Desktop
I’m a big fan of Cover Flow even before it was integrated in all the Apple products – when it was somebody’s plugin for iTunes. That’s right – it wasn’t create by Apple. However having it confined within the iTunes application feels restrictive. Once you have a 3D desktop, why not make cover flow a full class citizen of that desktop?
Carousel to Navigate Apps
This is probably one of my weakest ideas and needs to be fleshed out. The basic premise is once you have a 3D Desktop, your apps should exist in 3D space. I’m not sure on the benefits of the Carousel myself, but I felt it was a cool UI.
Using Head Tracking to “look around”, by looking around
To me, this concept is what makes a 3D desktop really cool. The scenario is this: Say I’m downloading something, I can put that window on the desktop on the side of my main one. When I want to check on the progress of the download, instead of having to hit keys on the keyboard to find out, I just very naturally look around to see how it’s going. This is a very natural interaction that doesn’t have to be memorized or taught. This interaction therefore has a low cognitive cost. Instead of having to explicitly take action via keyboard commands by switching desktops to see the progress and switching back, possibly losing context, I quickly glance over and come back to my task.
There’s a lot more than can be explored. Right now, the “floor” of the desktop has not been considered. Also, I have some ideas around 3d folder navigation that I can dive into in the next episode of 3D Desktop concepts.
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