Killer kangaroos

3D Windows

Innovations in desktop design don’t come along very often — which is what makes Sun Microsystem’s “Project Looking Glass” so intriguing. In their system, each window is represented as a 3D object, kind of like a thin piece of wood. To minimize them, you can spin them sideways; they’re identified by a few words on the thin side of the panel. As their web site describes it:

In the prototype, windows displaying applications are no longer stacked upon each other with flat icons and buttons to represent them; they are viewed in a 3D environment and manipulated as 3D objects. We are moving beyond the boundaries of old environments to revolutionize the use of the desktop.

I’ve always been kind of skeptical of 3D-like interfaces — I actually think the paper-and-file model is pretty intuitive. But one of the things that’s particularly nifty about Sun’s concept is that you can spin a window around — such as a web page or PDF file — and write notes on the back of it, like a photograph. Check it out here, the second-from-bottom link: It’s kind of hard to visualize unless you see a screenshot.

Still, if I wanted to truly design a groundbreaking interface, I wouldn’t go to the computer industry. I’d hire a bunch of designers from the video-game industry. The interfaces for most games these days are infinitely better and more intuitive than anything on a computer.

(Thanks to Jeremy for this one!)

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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