Visual Angles and Adjacency in 3D Operating System Environment

3djavaosVia multi-talented artist Jason McElweenie (disclaimer – I work with Jason) – The image at right is a still from a video of a new 3D Java based Operating System.  It includes a cool method of visualizing the applications in 3 dimensions.

One of the big take aways from the Tufte seminars is the importance of adjacency.  By adjacency he simply means having content side by side as opposed to front to back.  Front to back by definition a sequential process (harder on the brain).  So the ideal situation would be a two high by three wide stacks of 30 inch high def monitors with all relevant content visible at all times.  So, for those of us who can’t afford 18k in monitors per user, the ability to angle windows is appealing.

More on adjacency from this American Communication Journal article on Visualization:

Tufte writes, "spatial parallelism takes advantage
        of our notable capacity to compare and reason about multiple images that
        appear simultaneously within our eyespan. We are able to canvass, sort,
        identify, reconnoiter, select, contrast, review – ways of seeing
        all quickened and sharpened by the direct spatial adjacency of parallel
        elements" (Tufte 1997:80).

Regarding the 3d operating system above, angling windows while the content is still active is very cool.  And I can see arranging my desktop like / / [X] \ \ \  where X is the active window and the \s and /s are other open applications angled to show up thin but with some adjacent visual content.

At one point in the operating system demo video the presenter flips an application window over entirely and writes on the back in sticky note fasion.  The act of flipping a window to take notes on the back does not make sense because you have gone right back to sequential use. Why?  By definition you are NOT looking at the front at the same time.  It isn’t adjacent, it is sequential, and sequential slows down visualization and therefore slows down human decision making.  And damnit we all want it RIGHT NOW! (whatever "it" is!)

I’d like to be able to “strike” the edge of a window, like flint, and based on the strike it would create an adjacent sticky note.  That note would function similar to the comments in Excel but perhaps add in the translucence of the windows in the video.  So small strikes would appear on the border of the window and a hover, or moving the mouse close, would pop up the note.  Sharing these would be great as well.

I do recommend reviewing the 3D Java based Operating System video to get your mind going on visualization.  Cool ideas.  Thanks Jason!

On a related subject, this post on slashdot about a govt data sweep mentions the problems of understanding that huge amount of data and the possibility of using holograms to get a handle on it.