Exploring 3D Desktop Concepts and Natural User Interfaces

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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.

Multiple Desktops
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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Pek Red Couch Interview at SXSWi

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Level 3 Communications does these Red Couch interviews at various tech events. This one was shot at SXSW Interactive, a yearly technology conference in Austin Texas.

I…sound…like…a…child. I guess I don’t realize how I sound to other people and in my mind I sound very different from what I am hearing in this interview. No wonder nobody takes me seriously. Notice they butchered my name even after I wrote it down for them.

Combined with Slant TV, that’s 2 media hits this month. Sweet.

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Samsung Gets Social Media

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I just recently stumbled on this video on youtube. This video probably would never have been made 5 years ago. It’s got a very low budget homemade feel. It’s candid in its admission that Samsung hired them to showcase how awesome SSDs (solid state drive) are. But looking at the number of views (1.5M+) on youtube along, I’d say it’s a pretty successful campaign so far.

Being a geek, it was totally impressed by this video. It appealed to me. I could relate to it even though I would never hook up 24 SSDs in a RAID configuration.

I think we’ll start seeing more and more of these types of tactics done by big brands as they get more comfortable with the idea of putting themselves out there outside of traditional advertising.

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Touché, PC – Well Played.

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Recently saw this commercial on TV and it totally kicked any Mac vs PC ad by Apple. This was a real demo of how easy it is to use a PC, not some skit talking about how a mac is better. The message: So easy even a 4 yr old can do it. She’s cute and Asian to boot. Go PC!

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Videos of Wushu Practice Up

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I just put some new videos of wushu practice up. It’s been a while since I taped myself or ran my routines so I needed to check on how they look. Here they are:

Section 3 Broadsword Form

Section 2 Staff Form

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