Interface Lift

User interfaces get an extreme makeover to cope with today’s torrent of information

13 min read
Image by Viktor Koen
Image: Viktor Koen

You launched your Web browser this morning and typed “driver circuit” into a search engine. You’re looking for design tips for integrating a light-emitting diode onto a circuit board. Instead of the typical text list of sites, a hodgepodge of references to stepper motors, audio loudspeakers, and the Formula One racing season (those “drivers” do follow “circuits”), your screen fills with colored balls, nested like groups of solar systems within solar systems, each labeled with a general term. You ignore the balls labeled “pro racing,” “solenoid drivers,” and “power supplies” and click on the circle labeled “LED drivers,” which brings you to a group of squares that are Web links to sites with information about LED driver circuits. You found what you were looking for in seconds.

In May, San Francisco’s Groxis Inc. rolled out this new type of user interface as part of a Java plug-in for Internet browsers. As a new way of looking at information, it may catch on. Or another, equally unconventional means of interacting with a computer might take over instead. It may look like strands of DNA, or it might look like bubbles, paper tossed on a desk, or a timeline. It may float in a three-dimensional dome. Or it might look like something we can’t even imagine today.

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iStock

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