While a 3-d interface that mimics reality might be more intuitive to a first-time user, it is vastly less efficient for an experienced user trying to get work done. A 3-d desktop is an accurate mental model but it doesn't need to exist on a screen if it exists in my head. I can move through the z axis of my desktop faster with alt-tab than I could ever move, shuffle, re-order a stack of documents with my hands in a 3-d environment.
* EDIT: tv and movies (eg. minority report) probably have a clear incentive to favor input devices where the audience can more easily see what's happening. 3-d works better there.
I'm often surprised when I see professional programmers turning on some fancy 3D destop effects. Sure, these look nice, but they are only distracting and counter productive when you are using an environment several hours a day.
tl;dr xmonad rocks
Even vim on the whole is completely 'unintuitive'. That's the whole reason vimtutor exists. But, the couple of hours I've spent (combined) over the last few years learning how to use it has paid off in full and with dividends in terms of my productivity - and I hopefully have many more decades of life to recoup that investment many more times over.
> I'm often surprised when I see professional programmers turning on some fancy 3D destop effects. Sure, these look nice, but they are only distracting and counter productive when you are using an environment several hours a day.
I couldn't find these more annoying. Web interfaces tend to be the worst (because they're highly uncustomizeable). I don't want a slick, 3 second animation where the tab wiggles and slides every time I want to change the page (I'm looking at you, AmEx). I know where I want to go, and I just want to get there immediately. Every second that I'm delayed by flashy animations in something that I need to use several times a day just makes me despise the product a little bit more each time.
Outside of very specific applications/domains (gaming, simulations, etc.), I don't want anything to replace my keyboard. As GP said, nothing (including the mouse) can beat the keyboard for allowing maximum control and precision with minimal movement.
While the advantages you mention of a keyboard/mouse/touchscreen are correct, I would not say that is the reason they are so successful. The reason they are so successful is because up until recently there was no competition to either of these. They are the default winners in the world of today, because they were the only ones racing yesterday.
Edit: some VRML links for the nostalgic:
That's not the key question. Traditional interfaces have some sort of physical contact. Moving from physical keys to touch screen removed most of the tactile feedback. But still many phones simulate it via haptic vibrations.
Imagine trying to grasp an object in the air purely out of visual feedback. I would imagine it to be extremely strenuous especially in 3D space. Unless there is a breakthrough sci-fi skin which can simulate this tactile feedback, we would be, quite literally, hand-waving in the air.
If you have an augmented reality setup maybe some visual effects applied to your hand would be translated into feelings.
The problem with most of the existing gesture based interfaces is that they are interacting with the interface in an indirect way, as in the gestures are used control something like a pointer on the screen, and users have no way to see how they are positioned relative to the interface they are interacting with. If they are used in ways similar to a touch screens, I think it would be pretty natural, without too much hand-waving in the air.
It's going to be a small patch on your skull that lets you look at a link and think : click / go. Your eyes and focus will make your hands almost entirely pointless for using a computer.
Within 10 to 20 years it'll be possible to wear said small patch, look at a url bar, think google.com, then think: go or enter, and it'll all just work. I think it'll be available in 10, but larger consumer adoption within 20.
That same patch will enable true interfacing with your physical environment. Walk into your house and think kitchen lights on (plus a safe confirmation word or phrase to make sure you mean it), and they'll come on based on the associated phrase.
By the time companies like Microsoft get around to trying to perfect a ridiculous hand > 3D interface, this concept will already have destroyed it.
Minority Report interfaces also will never become mass consumer adopted because of this.
Right now, the bleeding edge is just coming to grips with decoding signals in the somatic nervous system (the one that's responsible for voluntary control of skeletal muscles).
I think we're still a long way off from being able to read the contents of thoughts from an EEG.
it's actually been built, by the same guy that designed the thing for the movie, but many express reservations: http://oblong.com/
There's also kinect and leap in this space in the "stuff I can buy today" column. So I wouldn't discount this as "never" quite yet.
If we get a body temperature superconductor, a whole lot of other things are going to change and a SQUID patch on your brain is going to be one of the more boring advances from that technology.
3D interfaces may eventually be the future, but I don't think this version is it. First of all, it's gonna eat up your desktop space like crazy, for what advantage really? Wow factor? That wears out quickly.
Which brings me to my next point; there has been technology to do a variety of different types of 3D desktops for a while now, but it hasn't been pursued because so far going 3D doesn't provide much in the way of practical advantages for most applications. If you're browsing the web and reading email, 3D is doing nothing for you except "Oh man isn't this cool?"
The one place where it makes sense is where you are dealing with actual 3D objects, like 3D printing and CAD/CAM software.
Hey, at least they didn't say "whizz-kid".
That was my first impression as well. They want to make it enter the third dimension. Their solution for that is - hog more of that third dimension. No thanks, my desktop real estate is quite valuable.
I could see 3D going somewhere in the future, but only if it augments the desktop that is already there, not by trying to replace things that are still superior in their tangible form.
I think the disconnect is that it seems like they're trying to improve upon screens when they don't realize that they're competing. With things like this, this and of course this