The future of 3DUIs

Reflecting on our class discussions and projects here are a few things that came to mind about the future of 3DUIs.

Are 3DUIs easier to create for entertainment ?

Most of our project (which we think are cool) are related to fun.  The application specific designs we thought of in the beginning either didn’t have the “wow” factor or seemed to be rehashing of previous techniques.  Does this mean that it is easy to design cool interfaces for entertainment?Entertainment is also the most prominent place for 3DUIs currently (gaming interfaces in particular).  Does this color our perception of what we think the mass will think of as cool?

How to design cool 3DUIs?

One way of doing this by creating a new piece of hardware (Multitouch film). Another way is to take something existing and pushing it further (kinect fusion). The last way is 3DUI-fication of a current 2D interaction/interface.Our class focused more on the last way. Why? Is it because of the time constraints of the class or is it because we want more engaging interactions in our current interfaces?

Is it still possible to innovate in 3D UIs?

Through our class experiences and ideas I think there are many areas that can use 3DUIs.  In particular there were many things that we couldn’t accomplish yet exactly because the technology wasn’t there.  This is a great sign because it means that moving forward we will have new things to try and implement. One important theme we take advantage of in our project is that although not all the process are automated the user gets the effect of having a world they can interact with.  It is important to realize that prototyping and working with ambiguity in terms of sensor capabilities is important to push the field further.

Are the innovations in 3D UIs today different than they were in the past? If so, why?

I think that 3DUIs of the past and today are different because we now have more physical tools to assist us.  Before, there were no HMDs, CAVEs, Kinects, and Moves.  Graphics programming was done from scratch using OpenGL or vector graphics.  Therefore the focus seemed more about how to capture 3D inputs.  Now 3DUIs are focused more on the interactions.  In particular, we see projects that look at the interplay between virtual and real objects, physical expression, and fun.

How do new technologies spur innovation in 3D UIs?

New technologies played a big role in our projects.  Most of the projects in our class used the kinect not because there weren’t other ways to accomplish the same motion capture but because it is new.  By using the kinect, it not only adds to the novelty of the interface but its form factor allows others to experience our creation.  Therefore, we can say that new technologies have the capability of creating new techniques (modeling with the kinect, multi-touch with capacitive films, etc.) or bringing techniques to the masses (kinect, move, retinal displays for AR).

What design philosophies, inspirations, or methodologies can lead to innovation in 3D UIs?

The most important thing is baby steps.  You can go the route of creating a new hardware for an interesting technique but there is so much still left to explore with what has already been created.  It is important to understand that technology shouldn’t be the limiting factor when creating a new 3DUI.  The real limit is the designer’s imagination.  With this in mind inspiration can come from anywhere: Current games, daily tasks, things that you imagined doing, or new ways to approach a problem.

When we use new technologies or philosophies, are we ignoring the design principles and techniques developed in traditional 3D UIs?

We can’t help but be influenced by what we have been previously exposed to.  Not to mention we still use traditional 3DUIs as a measure for comparing our techniques.  That being said we need to look outside traditional design principles in order to move forward.  We currently don’t have a perfect understanding of 3DUIs, therefore we shouldn’t have design principles that are set in stone.  Eventually there may be a standard (like the WIMP interface for desktop interaction) in which we can have these types of concrete do and don’ts.  Until then, we need to keep breaking the rules :D