Saturday, May 13, 2006

Where's my 3D interface

What will the future look like? More specifically, a 3D (three dimensional) interface that allows access to information. A 3D web.

I blogged about a library in Second Life awhile ago. I noticed that they recently had a presentation. I also noticed that the BBC (radio 1) had projected into Second Life their One Big Weekend. In both cases, the information from elsewhere was being displayed on a 2D screen in Second Life.

So let me get this straight. I sit in this chair in front of my computer which has a screen hooked up to my video card. On this screen is displayed a 3D representation of a virtual world. From within this virtual world is a flat 2D representation of information that is coming from elsewhere, say, the real world. Sounds like a recipe for disaster. When does someone knock over the dominos before they're completely set up? There are too many layers in this entire scheme and it is like looking at the world the wrong way through a telescope.

A 3D web (or game, or any representation of information) needs to be far more immersive than that. Either this screen needs to wrap around my skull, or I need to immerse myself directly into it (push or pull, take your pick). Humans have utterly fantastic vision with amazing depth perception and a lot of information processing power in their gray matter. This evolutionary faculty needs to be taken advantage of so that we are not slaved to a desktop somewhere examining a set of pixels projected onto a 2D screen in front of us. Get it into the ocular nerve as fast as possible with as few steps as possible.

I am continuously frustrated by the limitations of 2D work and playspaces. I want more information presented to me concurrently and I want it faster. Yet, even though I have a 24" LCD screen at my workplace, it is still not enough. I can quickly saturate the information stream being presented on the screen so that I must constantly 'put things away' on my desktop, or I find myself constantly clicking on icons on the taskbar and resizing images/folders/applications when I need to have more than one open at the same time (which happens far too often) in order to do a comparative analyses for example.

Even more important than the visualization of information is the interaction with said data. Not only do we need to move beyond a flat screen, we need far more than a keyboard and mouse, or an analog controller, to access this information in a meaningful way. Voice control perhaps? The idea of a an army of white-shirt geeks screaming at their computers sounds more like a Monty Python sketch than anything seriously useful. Would it be better to have something like Tom Cruise used in Minority Report? I think your shoulders would get tired after 5 minutes, although the health of the average worker might improve as a result. Thought control? That sounds dangerously close to requiring an implant, and I don't know about you, but there's no way in hell I would let a Microsoft product be implanted into my brain (that would give the BSOD an entirely new meaning).

Just like when the mouse was invented to easily manipulate a cursor on a 2D screen, I suspect that a new interface device will have to be invented in order to manipulate 3D data. To whoever does so, I applaud your instant millionaire status and implore you to consider investing in a little start-up I may be considering.

A new interface to information and a new way to manipulate that data. How soon before this becomes a reality?

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