Spatial dissonance

Minority Report user interface3D TVs have barely hit the shelves, and there are already claims that they will result in brain damage. Whether that turns out to be true or not, I don’t think 2D screens have done us any favours either.

I had a fairly typical day at the office today, doing the usual stuff, and trying to crack a new idea that’s been brewing in my head for the last week or so. By the late afternoon though, I started to get really bored and distracted, and found it hard to concentrate on work. Tried flicking open some Facebook and forums, but those weren’t doing it for me either. Nothing unusual, right? Happens to everybody.

Knock-off time. As I started walking to my car, the ideas started flooding into my brain, and I thought to myself “why does this always happen?” Maybe it’s happened to you too: your best ideas have come to you while driving, in the shower, walking the dog… but never behind your desk. My take on this is that we’re spatial beings who live in a three-dimensional world. Our brains and bodies work best in 3D space, and it takes a surprising amount of effort to confine it to a flat surface. Therefore when I finally made a break from my work (and not just a temporary respite) my mind was freed from its boxy jail.

I dub this condition spatial dissonance – the encroachment of the flat virtual world into the real world. The problem is, my career and hobbies are all currently critically dependent on interfacing with a screen, and while I can quite easily take up new hobbies that don’t involve monitors or TVs, I’m at much less liberty to make similar changes at work.

I guess that’s why found this TED talk video so interesting. In it, John Underkoffler makes the point that User Interface design has lagged significantly behind increases in speed and capacity, and gives a live demonstration of a real-world implementation of the spatial interface technology that he helped to design for the movie Minority Report.

I can’t wait.

Here’s the video: