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BumpTop, Pushing the Desktop Metaphor 213

Posted by timothy
from the slide-'em-around dept.
Alranor writes "BumpTop is a new way of manipulating your GUI desktop with a graphics pen. Documents can be moved and piled (among other actions) as if they were real pieces of paper on a physical desktop. Simulated real physical interactions, such as documents pushing others out of the way as you move them around, are intended to increase the intuitiveness of the layout tool. Given the messiness of my desks at work and home, I'm not so sure this will work for me, but it's an interesting idea."
There's a neat video demo linked from the site (and a "hip-hop overview") if you want to see BumpTop in action; unfortunately for Linux users, BumpTop seems to be Windows-only. As reader idangazit describes it, this is "not just another "me-too" alternative UI; a lot of effort and polish has been put into the (pen-based) interaction, resulting in a very natural way of interacting with collections of information. Less sci-fi than Minority Report, but far more likely to hit a desktop near you in the next few years."

Update: 06/22 16:55 GMT by T : As zdzichu reader points out in the comments below, a visually similar project called lowfat, with an equally impressive video demo, is being developed — with enough sponsorship, lowfat will go open source.
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BumpTop, Pushing the Desktop Metaphor

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  • by ilovegeorgebush (923173) on Thursday June 22, 2006 @08:23AM (#15581504) Homepage
    It does look very cool, but I can't help thinking if it would actually be practical or usable.
    Features such as the LassoMenu look awesome, but in all honesty, I can't see how I could apply it enough to be proactive.

    Of course, developement of such technologies is always a good thing, and its good eye-candy if only that :)
    • by lcde (575627) on Thursday June 22, 2006 @09:06AM (#15581672) Homepage
      I could definately see it being used in the tablet market. I don't think shifting through file systems with a pen would be much fun.

      On a more 'futuristic' note: Wouldn't it be cool to have a desk like in The Island [imdb.com] where the doctor brought up their files ON his desk. Now image a big desk with a touch panel as its face. This technology would be pretty cool. Pile up your documents, open them and a virtual keyboard/mouse appears.
    • From what I can tell, it's a more sensible way of ordering documents. What I'd like to see is an approach where the documents are represented by thumbnails rather than just icons.

      Although it looks overly-complex, bear in mind that this is research. They're trying out all the possibilities to see which ones "fit". I reckon a refined version of this interface could be very good indeed.

    • MS Bob, is that you? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Tmack (593755) on Thursday June 22, 2006 @11:05AM (#15582606) Homepage Journal
      Before I wtfv (watched...vid) thats the first image that poped into my head, Microsofts' BOB desktop. The more "realistic" look of a real office/desk to work on etc, etc. Though after wtfv, I realized this is not even in the same league as that steaming pile of DOS based poo. Its definately interesting, and the eye-candy factor is really high, which is enough for alot of people to pick it up at least for a try. The whole piles thing reminds me of the gui to the mainframe in "Hackers" to an extent. While Im not sure it would be the best desktop to use, I could definately see it used for a file manager with a few alterations: add boxes for directories, each box acts like another document, but can be opened and the pile of files/directories inside examined like all the others, and add a live preview or some other way to distinguish the files (like they did with the pictures) to the icons.

      tm

  • by matt4077 (581118) on Thursday June 22, 2006 @08:24AM (#15581506) Homepage
    ...are not unfortunate since they don't need no real world metaphors.
  • by gasmonso (929871) on Thursday June 22, 2006 @08:25AM (#15581509) Homepage

    The whole point of having a computer is to free yourself from paper. So why would you take a step back and try to digitally emulate a system that is antiquated? A computer offers endless opportunities for organizing and storing data, I see this as a step back.

    http://religiousfreaks.com/ [religiousfreaks.com]
    • by ZackStone (729714) on Thursday June 22, 2006 @08:54AM (#15581622) Homepage
      Because,as you can see from the video, the amount of information that is conveyed in a pile of papers is much larger than you could ever achieve on a desktop. Then what about folders, directories, or labels? Well, so far none of these could communicate, for example, your workload at a glance. How many times have you filed something away so neatly that you can't find it hirearchically (is that even a word?) and have to resort to searching!? --ZS
      • How many times have you filed something away so neatly that you can't find it hirearchically (is that even a word?) and have to resort to searching!?

        Countless times. On a computer AND on paper. On a computer, so what? It's easy to search when needed. On paper? Now that really sucks. That's one reason I hate paper. Print it, and it's lost.

        Oh, and that is true for "neatly organized" and "not organized at all" (AKA "huge pile"). Organizing just makes searching easier to avoid and easier to do.

        Unfortunately, "n

      • With the thousands if not millions of documents on modern computers search is the ONLY way to go forward for the future. Spotlight on the Mac comes close to getting this right allowing for easy gui based search of both file titles and search through text of documents including e-mail. While it's default of searching music and fonts is questionable that is easily disables, overall it's pretty good. Ditto for Beagle on Linux, and what google desktop on Windoze?

        Meanwhile imagine google as a giant messy pile
    • > The whole point of having a computer is to free yourself from paper. So why would you take a step
      > back and try to digitally emulate a system that is antiquated? A computer offers endless
      > opportunities for organizing and storing data, I see this as a step back.

      Also, I don't actually have many "documents" on my "desk top". There are a few pieces of paper on my desk. I don't really much them around very much though.

    • The whole point of having a computer is to free yourself from paper. So why would you take a step back and try to digitally emulate a system that is antiquated? A computer offers endless opportunities for organizing and storing data, I see this as a step back.

      Sometimes the UI has to take a step back because there are users out there who find it hard to take the step forward.
      I agree that it's a bad idea to limit your thinking to physical metaphors if you can reasonably think in a similar way to the way
    • by netsavior (627338) on Thursday June 22, 2006 @09:00AM (#15581653)
      I guess you have never met my users.

      They print out an excel document with 3 cells so they can "read" it. No joke one time the 1st VP printed out an email I sent him that had a 6 digit order count, and no other text... he read it out loud, then threw it in the recycling. They keep giant boxes of paper docs that are printed off from our document management system, and are easily retrievable. We have a 100% paperless system, and at any given time the users have 10-20 sheets of paper on their desks, all of them digitally accessable.

      I don't have any paper on my desk, haven't since the early 1990s, but this advancement is not intended for me. It is for "Joe Paper-Lover"
      • by Nurgled (63197) on Thursday June 22, 2006 @09:26AM (#15581814)

        I'm no technophobe, but I always have at least one paper document on my desk at work. Why? Firstly, because then I can free up my monitor for more important things like my text editor, and secondly because I can scrawl all over a paper document with my handy ballpoint pen much more easily than I can annotate an electronic document using my mouse and keyboard.

        • ...because I can scrawl all over a paper document with my handy ballpoint pen much more easily than I can annotate an electronic document using my mouse and keyboard.

          It kills me what "metaphors" make it and the ones that don't.

          The whole WYSIWY_M_G (_M_ == may) thing is inferior to WISIWIG (what I say is what I get). Also, things like stickies, notes, scribbles in margins are required for both within documents as well as to be appended to their icons, but we don't get that. We get a pen that, like the mous
        • by Ailicec (755495) on Thursday June 22, 2006 @11:00AM (#15582564)
          You can have it both ways - permanent markers will work great for annotating on your monitor. Keep some correction fluid around though...
      • Most of the paper issue has to do with software and hardware. Things are still too expensive for someone to have a true virtual desktop, aka your desk IS the monitor. Once tech and software catches up desktops like this will probably take over. If it cost around 1k I think people and companies would be a lot more willing to try out something other than the standard monitor. It's all a matter of time. Software has to catch up with times as well. We need an easy way of moving documents from a pc to a cheep po
      • Whenever there's a subpoena or an investigation or an audit of some kind, the requestor wants your documents in hardcopy. If you present the information to them digitally, it had better damn well be in a format that can be printed out. I imagine this has something to do with the fact that they want a static, unchangeable document, not one that could even be suspect to having been modified.

        Can you modify paper records? Sure. Can you prevent digital records from being changed (or at least provide for a tr
    • That's the problem with computers. People try to take stuff they know from other realms and apply it to computers, but that doesn't work. It may be nice if it did, but it isn't. People refuse to learn something new, and only learn the minimal amount for their job to get done. They don't want to learn it well enough to get their job done quick and easily, just enough to get the job done.
    • The best and the worst metaphors are somewhat shaky.

      Metaphor is a literary term comeing from the Greek: to carry over. It's not the how much you carry over (the realism), but the usefulness of whatever makes it through. Usually the less excess baggage you carry over, the better.

      The file cabinet metaphor is useful because people want to be able to find things by an indexing attribute (e.g. client name). However, you don't need to carry over the fact that physical files can only be filed in one place.

      Like
      • This is exactly the point. This desktop may work well for 10's or 100's of documents, but what about when you are managing 1000's of documents. Trying to manage a large collection of photos or music is a lot easier when they are stored digitally. Allowing things to be categorized into many folders, makes my music and pictures a lot easier to find.
    • by Ruff_ilb (769396) on Thursday June 22, 2006 @09:30AM (#15581833) Homepage
      Why would you WANT documents pushing each other out of the way? That just means that, if I have something exactly where I want it, and I happen to want to move something in a direct path blocked by the other document, that means I either have to move AROUND the second document, or push it out of the way, and then go back and move it again. This is simply one of many such problems with a "phsycial" interface.

      And then of course, you have to deal with the extra processing costs inherent in such a desktop. It may look pretty, but behind it you have to have the CPU doing plenty of physics calculations, the GPU doing rendering, anti-alwhich could slow down a slow system with a cluttered desktop.

      My biggest gripe with this, however, is the fact that the icons all look the same. I don't want to have to memorize the placement of documents on my desktop (even though I often do so through simple habit, anyway), and these icons barely indictate file type, much less name, which I find to be a huge handicap. Without file names on the desktop, things get confusing rather quickly.

      A final gripe I have is that, if we must use a pen-type device, does that mean we're switching from a pen to a mouse whenever we want to use an application that's incompatable/inconvenient when using this software?

      The technology is interesting, but I doubt its practical use.
      • Why would you WANT documents pushing each other out of the way? That just means that, if I have something exactly where I want it, and I happen to want to move something in a direct path blocked by the other document, that means I either have to move AROUND the second document, or push it out of the way, and then go back and move it again. This is simply one of many such problems with a "phsycial" interface.

        If not overdone, it could be more intuitive. If icons are constantly in your way, that's an immedi

    • Sounds great to me, instead of having your mess spread out on a 2m wide desk, it's now all crammed on a 30cm screen !

      I can't wait till this is ported to my cellphone ! Or to a screen grafted on one of my toenails !

      If it's smaller, it has to be better, right ?
    • The whole point of having a computer is to free yourself from paper.

      No, it isn't. The whole point of having a computer is to make tedious and repetitive tasks easier. The "paperless office" hype was just a way to promote the use of computers ("cut costs by reducing the amount of paper used"). Or maybe it was just the standard answer given to business people by computer salesmen: "What can you do with it? Well, uh, I don't know, you'll have to spend a lot less money on paper?"

      So why would you take a step

    • A computer offers endless opportunities for organizing and storing data, I see this as a step back.

      This is one of the "endless opportunities" for organizing and storing data. It's another way to visualize it...may work well for some and not well for others. I don't see myself using it, but I'm sure the concept would be useful to some.
    • User Interface design frequently looks to real-world metaphors because people already understand how to interact with common, everyday objects. You use real-world metaphors everyday, even in the interfaces for cutting-edge applications. For example, Firefox has tabs, and so have filing systems and Rolodexes, for years! When you see a tab, you have expectations about what will happen when you click on one, and you understand that when one tab looks different from other tabs, that means it's the active tab
    • New technology adds to our abilities. In the case of computers replacing paper, we've replaced than added to our abilities; this desktop seeks to augment the familiar real-world model with computer-age abilities (sorting, undoing, etc)
    • The whole point of having a computer is to free yourself from paper. So why would you take a step back and try to digitally emulate a system that is antiquated? A computer offers endless opportunities for organizing and storing data, I see this as a step back.

      Because it might still be a useful metaphor for the way people actually organize things. You can dump what you were just working on into the appropriate pile and it'll be there when you get back.

      People (myself included) don't organize things in our br

  • Papercuts? (Score:4, Funny)

    by adamlazz (975798) on Thursday June 22, 2006 @08:25AM (#15581510) Homepage
    Documents can be moved and piled (among other actions) as if they were real pieces of paper on a physical desktop.

    Can you still get papercuts?
    • No, but just wait until you start to fall asleep pulling a late-nighter and you spill that vitual coffee mug all over your virtual TPS reports and have to fill them all out over again!
  • The trouble is... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Orange Goblin (945041) on Thursday June 22, 2006 @08:26AM (#15581513)
    ...you'll spend all your time playing with the physics engine, and none of it doing any actual work.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    What's next? Ageia PhysX cards for office PCs for 1000000 simple document collisions per frame?
    • Hell yeah:

      Boss: I see you've requested a GeForce 12000 graphics card and a PhysX 4 'physics card'? What are these for?

      Me: I have to routinely handle thousands of documents each day, and my computer gets really bogged down when manipulating them. These little cards will increase my productivity immensely.

      Boss: Okay, that should be fine, then, here you go.

      Me: Woohoo! Quake fest!

      I think it's vitally important that this desktop metaphor be used in offices everywhere. I'll nominate my own office as a te

  • At a glance... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Aladrin (926209) on Thursday June 22, 2006 @08:31AM (#15581527)
    I would LOVE to use this system for dealing with photographs or other documents that are easily recognizeable at a glance, but beyond that I don't see any use for it other than 'fun'.

    I watched that video and the entire time I thought 'useless' until they showed the photos. There was also once a video of someone using multiple fingers to manipulate photographs, and I thought this would be useful as well. Neither of these systems can do much for me otherwise, though.

    As for being Windows-only... I think that shows how short-sited these people are. Linux users are quite a bit more likely to embrace change than Windows users. But, maybe that's to our advantage. We can now design and implement a MUCH better and more useable system that was intelligently designed (I couldn't resist) instead of just what someone thought was cool.

    If I had much free time, I would be working on it myself.
    • Re:At a glance... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Tim C (15259)
      As for being Windows-only... I think that shows how short-sited these people are. Linux users are quite a bit more likely to embrace change than Windows users.

      You *are* kidding, right? In my experience (both personal and based on comments here) Linux users tend to be the least flexible, most opposed to change people I've ever met. That's not to say that they *all* are, of course, but read any article here about KDE, Gnome, xgl, new HCI ideas, etc and you'll see a whole slew of comments deriding it, with a l
      • ...vi & make rather than an IDE...

        I agree with most of what you said, but make (and Ant) are better than letting the IDE build the project, because you can more easily tell what's going on and have better control over the build process.

        • ...which is why we use an IDE (Eclipse) to write the code in, and ant (via the built-in interface) to actually build and deploy our code.

          We get all the nice features of a proper code-aware editing environment (real-time error flagging, refactoring support, code structure browsing, etc), with the power and control of ant.

          Don't get me wrong, I used to use vi and make exclusively; I just have no desire to go back.
          • Part of the problem is too many people are 'casual' Linux users. Hell, I'm a Solaris admin, and Windows is still my primary desktop. Thanks to applications like Outlook, I'm permantly stuck on the Windows interface (and yes, I've used Evolution plenty of times, but there are some plugins that my company uses in Exchange that Evolution can't use, therefore, I'm stuck with Outlook).
          • Yeah, I know -- I wasn't complaining about the IDE itself.

            I'm just cranky because I have to use Visual Studio at work and have to deal with the stupid opaque .vcproj and .sln files. I wish we could switch to Nant...

      • I've definitely seen the 'nay sayers' of Linux. I think they are simply a very vocal minority, though. I look at the sheer number of distributions, and the constant posts about 'I switch from X Linux to Y Linux and...' on the internet, and I just can't see Linux users in general as being afraid of change.

        Oh, everyone's a LITTLE afraid. Evolution made sure of that. But people that are using Linux came from one of 2 groups: People that had to learn Unix/Linux for work, and people that decided to change (
    • As for being Windows-only... I think that shows how short-sited these people are.

      Yeah, why would they settle for selling to 90% of the desktop market when they could have given it away to 10%? What morons! :-)

      Okay, kidding aside, surely you can see why a commercial vendor might want to go for the big fish first, and save the Mac & *nix ports for later? Even if Linux users were 5x more likely (a made-up number) to embrace something new, that still leaves twice as many potential customers for a Windo

      • Completely aggree and in addition:

        - Even if Linux users like the change, they already have plenty of desktop managers to play with. Also Destkop Manager choice in Linux seems to have become a religious question those days.

        - Linux users are no used to pay ( yeah nobody "likes" to pay, but at least Windows user are "familiar" with the idea ) A business looks at the market size it can catch but also looks at what price the market buy something. If it needs to sell 2 times cheaper to linux users, they need a 2
    • Lowfat (Score:2, Informative)

      by Peturrr (940456)
      This reminds me of something I saw on the UbuntuForum.
      It was a simple start of an Linux app in wich you could manipulate photo's very much like this app.

      Found it! => Lowfat [thepimp.net]
    • Re:At a glance... (Score:3, Informative)

      by hcdejong (561314)
      I would LOVE to use this system for dealing with photographs

      Aperture [apple.com] lets you do something like this: you can arbitrarily arrange photos on a workspace (light table).
    • Re:At a glance... (Score:3, Informative)

      by Flammon (4726)
      Same kind of activity happening in the FOSS world. Check out macslow [thepimp.net] the lowfat [thepimp.net] project.
    • As for being Windows-only... I think that shows how short-sited these people are. Linux users are quite a bit more likely to embrace change than Windows users. But, maybe that's to our advantage. We can now design and implement a MUCH better and more useable system that was intelligently designed (I couldn't resist) instead of just what someone thought was cool.

      Linux users like to embrace change, but what we like even more is being productive. And managing your computer desktop the way you manage your phys

  • Star Trek 42 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mr. Underbridge (666784) on Thursday June 22, 2006 @08:32AM (#15581529)
    ..."To boldly go where no metaphor has gone before..."

    Seriously, I want my computer to be *better* organized than my desk, not worse.

    • Re:Star Trek 42 (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Gulthek (12570) on Thursday June 22, 2006 @08:52AM (#15581611) Homepage Journal
      It is better, it can be arbitrarily large!

      Imagine it! Documents and photos and games and toys stretching out for virtual miles! You'll have to code a flight sim just to see all your data!

      Then might as well add topography to represent groups of data. A gleaming ivory tower for academic research. A giant drive-in for movies and tv files. A dystopian city structure for work related folders. A dark ocean for the internet, full of dangers and terrors and fun. A huge cave would lead into the purgatory of your "recycle bin" files, where they wait to be reborn or fed to the maw of no return.
      • This brings to mind "memory palaces". I initially dismissed this as a gimmick but your post makes me think perhaps it would be a great way to improve your memory of all the information you have.
    • Seriously. I think some folks have taken the "desktop" metaphor a wee bit too literally. That or the latest generation of human-computer interface researchers suffer from a profound lack of imagination.

      The thing that I don't get about projects like this is that they seem to fail to recognize that "possible in real life" is not the same thing as "desirable in a computer interface." For example, you can pile papers and such in real life. That's great, I can. But the piles get hard to keep track of and ar
  • by Matt Edd (884107) on Thursday June 22, 2006 @08:33AM (#15581535)
    I just tried the Lasso'n'Cross on my real desk and it just made a bigger mess.
  • by Elvis Parsley (939954) on Thursday June 22, 2006 @08:33AM (#15581538)
    I initially read that as "bumtop" and thought "that's a weird place to put your computer."



    Appropriate if you're in a situation where you have to pull numbers out of your ass, though.
  • Simple Pleasures (Score:3, Insightful)

    by celardore (844933) on Thursday June 22, 2006 @08:35AM (#15581544)
    The age of email and similar IT based office communication lacks some of the real world 'feel' to it. Sometimes when an email annoys me, and I've dealt with the query I will print out said email, screw it up into a ball and hurl it into the bin while saying an expletive. Then delete the email from the system.

    It just wouldn't be the same if it was ALL technology. I like to touch things with my hands. I like getting a pile of documents in my hands and banging the sides so they all align. I like dumping a big pile of papers onto someone I don't like's desk. Ink stains on a white shirt, I could do without though.
    • I routinely get work orders (as PDFs) with enormous diagrams, and circuit descriptions that span several pages.

      It's impossible to see enough of it to do the job, without having the details impossibly small. Therefor, I print them.

      When challenged on my going against the "paperless concept" I usually ask for a 3x3 array of monitors view the work order at a useable size. No one has yet taken me up on that.

      Sometimes what works in the physical world doesn't translate easily to the virtual world.

  • by IainMH (176964) on Thursday June 22, 2006 @08:35AM (#15581545)
    I wish I could make my phyical desktop and indeed my whole flat more like my windows desktop.

    "They're coming around when?!"

    *select all -> drag into single folder*
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 22, 2006 @08:36AM (#15581549)
    Hah! Watching the video I noticed that at around 6.05min they pick a window to screw up and discard. And the window of choice? It's clearly displaying slashdot!

    News for nerds. Stuff that crumples.

    ---
    Accommodation for students [letsuni.org]
  • Problems (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ardor (673957) on Thursday June 22, 2006 @08:38AM (#15581554)
    It is very nice, but adapting real-world metaphors to such a degree makes very little sense. What most forget is that real-world metaphors are not optimal. For example, a pile of paper is not optimal because it is hard to search something in it. Using computers, I can access a text file nearly instantly, so why should I want a delay because of the metaphors? IMO the last really useful UI invention was the desktop search, because it satisfies most user's needs: a) fast access, b) easy search, c) instantly accessible.

    Of course, this is a research project, and some of its results may find their way into mainstream UIs. For example, I could think of a variation of the lasso menu. Draw a lasso using the mouse over a couple of files, then pull up, and a directory is created with all marked files in it.
    • c) is kinda redundant... :)
    • Re:Problems (Score:4, Interesting)

      by mabhatter654 (561290) on Thursday June 22, 2006 @09:18AM (#15581751)
      but people are spacial creatures... the flat, 1-D world of bits doesn't work very well for most people. A real desk holds a lot of information just by "being" a desk that a desktop computer doesn't hold. People remember that that stack in the corner was from last thursday, that the extra thick document with two staples is the TPS report the boss required after-hours, that they hate the bottom drawer because it sticks.. so they remember perfectly what's in it. Most of the greatest minds of the 20th century were incredibely disorganized...yet they could find important work from 3 years ago, blindfolded in messy offices filled with books and papers. Our brains are wired to work in 3 dimension and time, computers will always be far too "flat" for ordinary people without some kind of "crutch"
      • A real desk holds a lot of information just by "being" a desk that a desktop computer doesn't hold. People remember that that stack in the corner was from last thursday, that the extra thick document with two staples is the TPS report the boss required after-hours, that they hate the bottom drawer because it sticks.. so they remember perfectly what's in it....

        Yeah, and to ease the pain of driving a car, car designers first tried using reigns like horses instead of pedals and steering wheels.

        Sounded good at
      • Our brains are wired to work in 3 dimension and time, computers will always be far too "flat" for ordinary people without some kind of "crutch"

        I don't see how this product provides that kind of crutch, though.

        The computer desktop will still be a finite 2-dimensional plane on a screen. The interaction of elements within it will still be virtualized, not physical. Is it going to help that much for individual elements to be "sheets of paper" rather than "windows"? The window metaphor has been in popular use
    • I use desktop search on a daily basis, but I don't think its going to replace the container metaphor any time soon. Just as an example, you copy a version of a file to a network or usb "drive" for work on a different computer. You fire-up your search engine (Google, Copernic, Glimpse, Beagle, Spotlight) and get multiple hits. Which one do you want? How do you tell?

      Advocates of abandoning containers neglect to note that with the exception of the device name, file paths are just metadata, with the last fe
    • For example, a pile of paper is not optimal because it is hard to search something in it.

      Even though my office is messy, to a large extent I know where things are. I'm not denying that things sometimes get lost, but I do know that if a well-meaning person straightens up and organizes my office when I'm away, when I return I will experience a sense of panic and become lost for days trying to find things. The point is that there is a subtle order to the mess, that makes sense only to me. Sure, it's not

  • by fishfish (139505) on Thursday June 22, 2006 @08:38AM (#15581557)
    Where are the cardboard boxes you can throw the stacks in after they've sat on your desk for two years?
  • I spend way to much time trying to overcome the flood of paper and other junk in the real world cluttering up my desk and surrounding flat surfaces. Why would I want that on my computer? What's needed are better more efficient ways of finding stuff even though you barely remember what it was or what it looked like. Maybe a compulsive organization freak could deal with this system, but for ordinary people it'll probably just reduce their computer desktop to even worse disorganized chaos than their real desk.
  • Dual Screen (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cabazorro (601004) on Thursday June 22, 2006 @08:45AM (#15581588) Homepage Journal
    To understand the power of a simpler human-computer interface one can see as an example the Nintendo DS. I have handed the gadget to people that never in their lives have use one or a computer for that matter (brain-age game). And by using the stylus and the touch-screen they get to play with it almost immediately.
    The mouse needs to be replaced by a touch screen with a stylus.
    • The mouse needs to be replaced by a touch screen with a stylus.

      Try out a Tablet PC.

      I have a Toshiba Tecra M4 and I'd love to have the option of using this desktop interface. I was doing some research into a topic the other night and I ended up with about 9 web browsers, half a dozen PDFs and a couple of spreadsheets. Being able to see them all on a virtual desktop like this would be far cooler than Alt-Tabbing around or having to poke around on the task bar...

      D.

      • That is because the Windows interface is designed to be used with a Mouse, not a stylus.
        Theres a very simple game in the Nintendo DS Mario 64 where a flower appears and you start plucking the petals away with the stylus (love-me, love-me-not). That was it. The effect of plucking the petal with the stylus and when release (lift the stylus) the petal gently floats down or you can even toss-it sideways. Nintendo knows that something big happens when machines start understanding and mimicking the human movement
  • by abenassi (846350) on Thursday June 22, 2006 @08:53AM (#15581612)
    I would have had first post if I hadn't had to push all the papers off of my keyboard with my pen.
  • by jbarr (2233) on Thursday June 22, 2006 @08:55AM (#15581628) Homepage
    This is a fascinating concept, and it looks like it could be very useful, especially when using pen-based input. But in looking at other posts here, it seems that others are failing to see the bigger picture. Don't look at this as the end product, but look at as an add-on to curent GUI technology, or a component within a more sophistocated GUI. Coupled with other existing UI features, this could prove to be a powerful addition that would make pen-based interaction much more useful. No, it's not an answer in and of itself, but looks like a promising tool to enhance the pen-based GUI concept.

    The problem with these kinds of technology demos is that many people view them as an end product, and then write them off without considering how they might fit into a larger environment. Besides, isn't part of the usefulness of computers to be able to perform tasks virtually that could not otherwise be done in the physical world? If such function is provided in an intuitive way, then it makes computing more seamless and useful.
    • This is a product that pops up every once in a while. The pile metaphor, while interesting, requires some underlying technology to make it work. I am not just talkig about the eye candy, which is, as you say, interesting in itself and could lead to some interesting things, but the file structure.

      This is why I think 'the pile' has never taken off. To really work it requires a robust data driven file system. For instance, we now use a folder metaphor to represent related catagories to materials. We have

  • ...or your documents will fly off your desktop
  • A portable computer optimised for use on a pregnant woman's bump.

    This is definitely one for the people who brought you the polka dot iMac.
    It should be pastel colored, and have a speaker in the base to play suitable noises to the fetus while mother to be works from home.

  • by linvir (970218) * on Thursday June 22, 2006 @08:59AM (#15581644)
    Homebrew concept video [youtube.com]. As I say in the blurb,
    I'd been waiting for years for someone to bring this interface to computers!!
  • by broothal (186066) <christian@fabel.dk> on Thursday June 22, 2006 @09:01AM (#15581654) Homepage Journal
    Pretty nifty demo. It looked cool. But - I'm afraid time has passed for organising stuff like that. Remember the olden days when you placed all your documents and emails in folders. Now a days you just file everything away and use a search engine (desktop search in this example) to locate the document needed.
  • by TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) on Thursday June 22, 2006 @09:01AM (#15581655)
    Honestly, most of the software managers/bosses I have worked for can't think abstractly. They need to SEE prototypes, need to USE test software, or at least see pictures and text about how its supposed to work. Start describing software to them without visual aids and their eyes just gloss over.

    Same goes for when managers start using a computer, I mean, the O.N./O.F.F. switch escapes them sometimes, and higher level concepts such as organizing files in folders is just too far beyond their capabilities.

    So, an OS desktop that lets you see all your files and folders looking like pieces of paper and folders (I bet they even have email looking like envelopes too!) on a desktop that allows you to pile them up and look like stacks of paper and folders and envelops, what a concept!!!!

    I guess ICONS that look like paper and folders that you can place anywhere on your desktop isn't good enough. It requires too much thought to associate an icon with a file or a folder. A picture of a piece of paper on a square is too hard to rationalize as being a document.

    This is a revolutionary GUI concept and I can't wait for OS X or Windows to implement this idea as using computers today, with those pesky abstract icons, is just too darn hard, at least for managers.
  • by Deep Fried Geekboy (807607) on Thursday June 22, 2006 @09:01AM (#15581657)
    I really like BumpTop but others might not. Evidently what we really need is a universal file management etc API so that third parties can write interfaces which are independent of the underlying platform. I can then write a Finder replacement for OS X which will also run on Linux or Vista, and developers can market interfaces as they do any other app.

    The interface is just another app. Once we get that, we'll be rockin'.
    • This is much easier with the way stuff is developed in Linux. For instance, in Linux, all the CD burners run off a small set of Command Line tools. But what really puts them apart is the interface. All their functionality is derived a from a small set of stable, well test utilities. Then the developers of the UI can focus on the UI, without having to reinvent the wheel. It works this way with a lot of other applications too. There's lots of different window managers for Linux, they all do them the same
  • by topham (32406) on Thursday June 22, 2006 @09:02AM (#15581660) Homepage
    Bob by any other name is still Bob.
  • Balance (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Bombula (670389) on Thursday June 22, 2006 @09:04AM (#15581667)
    There has to be some sort of balance between making the interface intuitive and making it efficient. All GUIs fall somewhere along the spectrum. The thing to remember is where intuitive comes from: abstraction is intuitive when it closely resembles the structure of our real (physical) world experiences. This is true for lots of things besides just computer interfaces - things like language that are built upon abstract relationships between symbols, and their structures are inherently built on our evolved framework of physical and behavioral structures (Chomsky et al).

    So here's the deal: an ideal inferface will basically have a structure (i.e.: a logical framework of relationships) closely resembling the real world, but will operate at a speed unhindered by real-world mechanics like intertia, momentum, and spatial constraints. The existing folder+desktop system has been a natural, maybe even unconcscious, evolution towards precisely such a model.

    Personally, I think as long as we're missing a dimension - if we're in 2D instead of 3D - then we're not going to have a completely intuitive interface. The problem, though, is that true 3D still isn't really available. We just have 2D emulation of 3D on computer monitors.

    So these kinds of fancy 3D interfaces that have physics engines, collision detection, and all that stuff are sort of wasted in my mind until we have a really immersive 3D display system. I feel exactly the same way about FPS games. I'm a gamer, but I'm crushed that VR never took off. There's just no true feeling of immersion if you're stuck staring at your zillion-polygon virtual world through a tiny 19" porthole.

  • by simon_hibbs2 (792812) on Thursday June 22, 2006 @09:04AM (#15581669)
    The first thing that popped into my head while watching this was that it could make even ten-thumbed fumblers like me into class-act poker dealers. That has obvious gaming connotations, but realy this would be a very nice interface for games where you're manipulating simulatioons of real-world object or resources. RTS games user interfaces are all about multiply-selecting different categories of objects and issuing commands, and the gestures displayed here would be ideal for that kind of game. I wonder if the Nintendo DS, with it's pen input, would be up to an interface like this? Probably not, as it's not realy designed for physics.

  • It's a very cool demo, but if you were going to avoid doing the really hard work of coming up with a new way to look at how to organize our computer workspaces, why wouldn't you at least settle for a bookshelf metaphor instead of a desktop... again? I mean, wouldn't that be a better match for the use than just a desktop? My desk doesn't have anything on it but my phone and computer. My bookshelf, however, has all of the references, software, and even pictures. The only folks I know that really do have s
  • Apple [asktog.com] worked on things like piles in the early '90s.
  • by MikeyTheK (873329) on Thursday June 22, 2006 @09:14AM (#15581720)
    I understand the whole real-world-metaphor drawback. I think that we're missing the point - that this is an excellent transitional tool to a paperless work area.

    Part of what we all are failing to consider here is that we need desktop managers because the desktops on our copmputers are comparatively small to the desktops we actually work at in the real world, due to screen resolution restrictions vs. our ability to see things that are small. Face it. We are taking a 48" x 30-36" desk and trying to compress it onto a 17", 19", 21", 30" monitor IN MOST CASES. I know that most of us as geeks probably have two or three monitors on our desks, but if you compare that screen space relative to your real desk, it's like trying to run your office life off an end-table in your living room.

    The problem isn't that computers can't replace paper, the problem is that we don't have the number of pixels for the average user to make that proposition appetizing to the average user. Everything we can do to improve that situation makes the dream of going paperless more reachable.
    • Everything we can do to improve that situation makes the dream of going paperless more reachable.

      To go paperless we need one simply thing, cheap ePaper, and that has nothing to do with GUI or general interface design, since no matter how good your interfaces are getting, you need a big display for efficent paperless work, and not just 21" large, but something as large as the desk infront of which you sit, heck actually making the whole desk a display and the wall behind it a display would be a good idea. A

  • by grumbel (592662) <grumbel@gmx.de> on Thursday June 22, 2006 @09:54AM (#15582017) Homepage
    Its a nifty demo, but sadly that type of interface is like 95% pure toying around, it doesn't make navitagion easier, it doesn't give you a better overview, it doesn't even try to provide a fulltext search, instead you can now move the same unintuitive icons around with physics engine... yeah, great... The first thing I would expect from any 'new' kind of interface is that makes icons go away, completly, and while at it, throw the applications out of the windows as well. I mean where is the use in having a dozen equally looking pdf icons? Why don't do the really intuitive thing instead and present the document itself instead of an icon to abstract it? The demo also shows that shortly, however it isn't able to handle that well, since there seems to be a completle lack of zooming, thus you only get very few documents visible on screen, which really isn't so much better of what we have today. Now simply adding zoom on the other side wouldn't be enough either, since you don't only want to zoom into a thumbnail, but you want to zoom into the document itself, so you don't get to launch an app, but instead just zoom into the document since it is large enough to read it. Now this has some problems itself, like where do you pack the menu and toolbars or how to handle multiple documents at once or how to actually zoom (press a button or use mousewheel or some completly new control device (Wiimote)?), but the demo doesn't even try to solve those problems, instead we simply get old icons rendered in 3d with physics engine, which is nifty to look at for a minute, but doesn't really help much at all.

    To those interesting in new interface ideas I recomment to read The Humane Interface by Jef Raskins, who really does propose a new style of interface that is both a lot more intuitive then what we have today as well as a lot more efficient, instead of just adding bell and whistles like most other 'new' interfaces do.
  • lowfat (Score:4, Informative)

    by zdzichu (100333) <zdzichu @ i r c . pl> on Thursday June 22, 2006 @10:22AM (#15582252) Homepage Journal
    Fortunately for Linux (and other freenixes) users, an alternative is beeing developed [thepimp.net] since February.
    • Lowfat is interesting, but the MPX [unisa.edu.au] it runs on is fucking godlike.

      MPX should have an army of top teir coders supported by massive grants. It is the only innovative desktop project being coded right now.
  • by LordMyren (15499) on Thursday June 22, 2006 @12:41PM (#15583342) Homepage
    Havent we abused the desktop metaphor long enough? I dont think anyone thinks of the computer as an actual desktop, and I'm highly suspect that making a computer closer resemble a desktop will not aid anyone.

    Its time to start inventing new metaphors.

    -LM
  • This would probably lend itself better to tablet PCs and touch screen/kiosk systems where you are actually touching the objects on the screen, instead of the cursor/input device method, where you use the relative position of a device to manipulate items on a screen. While it works ok for the time being, the cursor/input device method is not very intuitive and is actually pretty awkward when it comes to making changes on impulse.

    If we could actually interact with our computers like we do with real world obje

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