I can also look at it as a control. This thing is round, so it qualifies as a spinner, a dial. I could have some UI here, move it near my Spotify tree, and use it to turn the volume up and down. I can take another object that’s more rectangular and use it as an on-off switch. We can look at objects and start allowing them to participate in the digital environment as control surfaces. We can start arranging intuitive interfaces wherever we need them out of the objects at hand. We can also begin using them as anchors for the experience. This becomes the new shortcut on the desktop, where I might take my Spotify and plant it here. Acknowledging the role of the physical and digital will also help solve how to interact with 3D interfaces.
VentureBeat: You also want to minimize the number of mistakes people make with these interfaces, right? The most common problem I have with this touchpad is I’ll accidentally highlight something and delete it all.
Ficklin: Absolutely. I have 25 screen captures in my iPhone because this button is opposite that button, and so every time I try to lock my phone or adjust the volume I end up taking a screenshot. There are two parts to that. One is a really good feedback loop, to make the user confident they’ve done the correct action. Second, if it’s not perceived to be working correctly, you may want to decide you should edit it back. This is important in the world of voice and gesture. In voice computing, 90 percent accuracy is almost not good enough. You need good accuracy and good feedback. When the feedback loop is connected to the user’s actions, they’re far more forgiving and far more confident. They’re not afraid of using the interface.
VentureBeat: Do you think that game interfaces have solved some of these problems? Are there some examples to be avoided there? You can easily get lost in 3D worlds.
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Ficklin: You’ve played Minecraft, I’m sure. Have you ever gotten lost in Minecraft?
VentureBeat: No, because they’ve kind of 2D’d what goes on in 3D there.
Ficklin: I get super lost in Minecraft. I’ll get down into a new mine and I guess I’m bad at leaving torch trails. Then you have to dig to the surface. Maybe I don’t know all the tricks the kids know. But to your point, yes, what you really want is a simple hierarchy. There’s a select-back context principle to LuminOS, where it’s going to be multitasking. That’s very familiar to us. We use these types of navigation trees every day. Hyperlinking on the web established them for us. Smartphones made them a cardinal law. That system is important because you don’t get lost in it. You can always home yourself.
A lot of video game principles do want you to get lost, or they have magic navigators that move you through the experience. That’s going to work in gaming. A lot of this interface stuff I’m talking about is only important to gaming in the parts where it looks like an application. Games will invent amazing stuff with all of these systems, but when it comes to living your digital life – productivity, entertainment, socialization – depth is going to be really cool, but context is going to be cooler. Having my Spotify in the room with me is cool. Having 3D-ness help that happen is cool. But there still needs to be that familiar friction-free computing experience, so we don’t have to walk around the library, as I was talking about earlier, and potentially get lost.
Before Argo I worked at Frog Design for 14 years. We were asked to make a lot of 3D interfaces over the years. It was always the same call: “How do we make a 3D interface?” That’s why talk about being humans and not dolphins. It’s a very difficult challenge.
We have a big advantage here, because the computer is wearable and mobile. The context of the room and having access to the surfaces will give us a giant leap forward. It’ll be cool to just take something out and slap it on that wall. It has a lot of semantic meaning. It means I want that here on this wall when I come back. I might have a copy of Spotify in the kitchen, a copy in the living room, a copy hanging in the bedroom. As I move between the three, the app will do a seamless handoff. I’ll always know that when I look over there, there’s Spotify.
If you use 3D-ness to connect to the physical space, in the computing interface it’ll be really awesome. In the gaming interface, somebody has to make a new version of Oregon Trail now, right? You start in the kitchen and you go to the living room and it procedurally makes this cool trail for you. [laughs]
VentureBeat: Are you simplifying things that are more complex? What’s an example there?
Ficklin: Look at the control. Look at Magic Leap and the control compared to a lot of other systems.