Scope: Providing Awareness of Multiple Notifications at a Glance

M. van Dantzich, D. Robbins, E. Horvitz, and M. Czerwinski

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We describe the design and functionality of the Scope, a glanceable notification summarizer. The Scope is an information visualization designed to unify notifications and minimize distractions. It allows users to remain aware of notifications from multiple sources of information, including e-mail, instant messaging, information alerts, and appointments. The design employs a circular radar-like screen divided into sectors that group different kinds of notifications. The more urgent a notification is, the more centrally it is placed. Visual emphasis and annotation is used to reveal important properties of notifications. Several natural gestures allow users to zoom in on particular regions and to selectively drill down on items. We present key aspects of the Scope design, review the results of an initial user study, and describe the motivation and outcome of an iteration on the visual design.

Keywords: Information visualization, Notification Platform project, peripheral displays, awareness, notifications, interruptions, alerting and notification systems.

In: Proceedings of AVI 2002, ACM Conference on Advanced Visual Interfaces, Trento, Italy, May 22-24, 2002. ACM Press.

Background on the Scope project

Given success of the Notification Platform research project (overview article) in demonstrating how diverse messages and alerts could be analyzed and triaged within the Notification's Platform's Universal Inbox, Eric Horvitz challenged members of his team (Adaptive Systems & Interaction at Microsoft) to come up with novel designs for visualizing and interacting with heterogeneous messages, normalized to the same urgency score. The team deliberated about different ways to display metadata and priority in a graphical manner. Maarten van Dantzig, a developer on the Adaptive Systems & Interaction team came up with the idea of using a radar scope metaphor. This seemed like a promisting direction. Maarten worked closely with UI designer Daniel Robbins, and cycled with Eric on the evolving design. The system was integrated with a version of the Priorities system. Mary Czwerinski, a psychologist on the team, assisted with a user study to gather feedback on the design. A number of ideas were not implemented fully. For example, we had been excited about the Scope turning briefly into a 3D crystal ball, displaying important messages as they came in, beautifully distorted by the lens. We only developed an approximation to this, and other enhancements, given time constraints.

Important items are closer to center.

Legend for symbols.

Sweeping out a region and review of items in a list box.

Frame from "crystal-ball" animation of incoming message.

Click here to explore several aspects of Scope design.