The TaskGallery is a running 3D research prototype user interface that expands the
desktop into an entire office with an unlimited number of desktops.
The screen becomes a long gallery with paintings on the walls that
represent different tasks, and the user moves quickly and easily from one to
another with a simple series of mouse and keyboard commands. We tried to make
the illusion appeal to the lessons in navigating physical space that we learned
as children, so that people would “get” the system intuitively without
having to learn or adjust to it. The less people have to think about how to work
their computer, the more mental energy they have left for their real work.
Home users and office productivity workers.
Unique features and innovations
Any normal, unmodified windows applications runs inside of
a 3D environment.
can customize the layout of tasks.
Files, documents, and applications are typically
represented as snapshots (rather than icons) to aid in retrieval.
The individualized layouts of tasks and documents within
tasks take advantage of users' spatial memory.
High-level control for common navigation prevents users
from getting lost in the 3D environment.
standard windows manipulation controls are augmented with additional
controls that provide high-level control for common window configurations:
loosely stacked files, put files in an ordered stack, maximize one document,
and compare several documents.
Our cognitive psychologists ran user studies to see whether
the TaskGallery successfully engaged the knowledge and abilities people use to
navigate physical space. Study participants told them that it seemed more
natural to place tasks on the walls of the Gallery rather than on the
floor or ceiling. Users were also very adept at remembering the depth ordering
of tasks. This suggests that people feel compelled to treat the Gallery
like a real-world environment, rather than just as an interesting desktop theme.
In general, users preferred the TaskGallery to the existing Windows interface. Further studies are ongoing and will attempt to tease out the various advantages
and qualities of using a 3D environment for normal productivity tasks.
The choice of a navigable spatial metaphor was partly
motivated by a desire to leverage human spatial memory. An art gallery was
chosen because of its familiarity. To increase ease of retrieval, the TaskGallery
includes the images of documents and tasks in the space in addition to
their spatial location and title cues. Classical mnemonic research has
documented that mental cues in the form of visual images are an excellent way to
enhance memory for items. Our previous studies have shown the strong influence
of snapshot/thumbnail cues to aid spatial memory during the storage and
retrieval of web pages.
The key areas our design focuses on are:
Easily understood 3D metaphors for virtual environments
Resolving the tension between spatial consistency and
dynamic rearrangement of data
Grouping of items at multiple
granularities through a hierarchical, though fluid structure
Cues to alleviate standard problems in 3D environments,
such as "floating windows" and depth confusion
We have developed a novel approach (redirection) to bring existing, unmodified
Windows applications into a 3D virtual environment. The result is a platform for
experimentation in 3D user interfaces, in which the user retains all familiar
productivity tools. This also allows for a smooth transition between traditional
2D interfaces and our new 3D territory. This prototype will help us to refine
our ideas as we design novel interfaces for information visualization,
window-management, and general productivity tools.