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BumpTop: Nice for anything...but my Desktop

BumpTop Prototype - HoneyBrown.ca

Don't get me wrong -- like apparently everyone this week, I think the BumpTop demo is right purty. The little interface widgets are beautiful and functional, and the physics of the motion seem realistic. It looks lovely. But would I ever, in a million years, seek this out as a Desktop replacement? You bet your butt I wouldn't, and I'll tell you why (as well as what it would be great for).

See, here's the thing: once your computer (and your related world, writ large) has excellent indexing, search, and access via something like Quicksilver, this kind of "physical" interface metaphor starts seeming quaint, if not downright exhausting. I guess I just never find myself shuffling and re-organizing large numbers of files in a way that isn't more than satisfactorily addressed with sorting, Smart Folders, icon views, and searching. I throw stuff into the most general piles I can stand, then let Quicksilver and Spotlight do all the heavy lifting. Maybe that's me, but this seems like a recipe for non-stop fiddling.

Having said that I can imagine several situations where I'd personally want to toss items into piles and use functionality similar to BumpTop.

  • Photographers? Maybe. Could be a nice interface for iPhoto or the like.
  • Video editing? Totally. Being able to quickly "pile" and re-arrange related clips would be unbelievably useful.
  • Shoppers? This would be ideal for eCommerce. Imagine a collaborative filtering inbox where you could throw books and CDs into piles. Maybe as a quick way to rate movies on Netflix?
  • Collectors? This jibes nicely with Delicious Library's approach in many ways. You're sitting there with a friend trading CDs and say, "Oh you'd love this, and this, and this...." Click to export, and zing, you're done.
  • Planners and schedulers of all kinds? Ever try to organize a conference or similar event without Excel and a huge bottle of Tylenol? The physicality of this would be a cool way to see "Oh, Track 4 is looking pretty busy for Monday morning; what can I move?"

But as an interface to my file and folder system? Meh. The metaphor of personal computer as physical space has been strained beyond usefulness, in my opinion. It's the lack of physicality that affords such insane productivity for Quicksilver users. Everything is abstracted into nouns and verbs and I get to mash them up however I need to. I'm unconstrained by "here" and "there."

Maybe I'm not who this would be targeted at, but I think I could be if it were applied to almost anything except my Desktop's contents.

What do you think?

MEP's picture

I think the idea is...

I think the idea is clearly intended for pentop interfaces. Spotlight/Quicksilver and their ilk are fantastic when you have a keyboard handy and can type as quickly as most of us here likely can, but when you're using a stylus, things change dramatically. Let's face it, handwriting recognition still sucks unless you are one of the few gifted souls whose handwriting is perfect (or at the very least, consistent). Entering text to find files on a tablet PC, Palmtop or perhaps one of those newfangled Origami things that may or may not see the light of day relies too heavily on being able to reliably write regardless of arm position, pen position, movement (if you're in a car) or a whole host of other factors that impact user input on pen-based devices.

Most people right now aren't carrying anywhere near as many files on their pen-based platforms either (or at the least, they aren't accessing as many while on the move). That obviously stands to change, but I still think this interface has some good ideas so long as they don't try to sell it as a desk/laptop PC interface. This could be useful standalone mutlimedia devices too -- set-top boxes with home video libraries on them, that sort of thing, where the pen could be replaced with something similar to the Wiimote on Nintendo's upcoming console (a virtual pointer basically). Let's face it, scrolling through menus on a TiVo sucks. When we all have set-top boxes recording our favorite shows and cataloging mountains of media, are well all also going to have keyboards in our living rooms?

I think this thing has legs, though they may only walk in certain directions.




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