metaphors (was: ports and morphs)

Jecel Assumpcao Jr jecel at
Mon Jun 10 17:54:10 UTC 1996

Thierry Goubier wrote:
> I'm not sure it's the main subject of this list, but I'd like to talk
> about metaphors in an object reality. Anybody has any idea to start with ?

Since the Self project is now officially about shared user interfaces
at Sun, it seems to me that this would be a good place to talk about
these things.

> I'll defend the orientation / stability point of view !

I can't comment on this as I haven't heard about this point of
view yet, thought I imagine what it is.

> On my next computer, I'll also try theses new S3-based graphics card.
> Inexpensive and 3D acceleration.

If you want to distribute your work to other people, then this isn't
a reasonable solution since you can't tell them what hardware to get.
My prototype GUI works reasonably well on my friend's 166MHz Pentium,
but will have to be rewritten from scratch if it is to be usable on
my 40MHz 386. If no one but me was ever going to use it, it would be
much easier for me to upgrade to a Pentium. But that isn't the case
and I can't afford to leave out 386 users.

> I see the idea : the merlin theme. I'm disturbed however by the
> orientering question. I'm quite a good player at 3D killing games and I
> often get lost without using a map (even with high-res ones like the Mac
> versions). I can also make any viewer feels sick in others, flight based
> ones by turning all over the place :-).

In the standard Merlin "rooms" you can only turn left and right and
walk forward and back. I'll bet most people will arrange all objects
in a rough circle around them and will never walk at all. You'll
be able to "hyperjump" to other rooms. I am trying to merge my GUI
and VRML2 (they are already so much alike) so that you can access
Merlin systems remotely from any VRML2 browser and user the Merlin
GUI to navigate the 3D web directly. So you will be able to fly
around in dizzying paths but only in special rooms.

> I believe that you have to recall the human capacities in orientering
> through a metaphor that behaves in a similar way, hence the term virtual
> reality. But you have to map it with the self objects. I have an idea of
> what may be usefull : a landscape metaphor, with sights to help you remind
> the places you've already been. The features of the landscape may not be
> related to the objects themselves : it may not be necessary.

The Rooms interface at Xerox Parc started out as an infinite scrolling
plane much like Kansas. They found out that people tended to group
objects in task related clusters and then jump between clusters
rather than use the full generality of the plane metaphor. When
hyperjumping in logical space there is less need for landmarks than
if you "manually" walk between favorite places. The best alternative
is to make all styles possible and see which one users prefer in the
long run.

-- Jecel

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