Human-Machine Interfaces is a subdiscipline of Computer Science that I keep thinking I’ll wander into (I know my students would love more courses in graphics and interfaces, since they all want jobs making stuff like this).
Piccolo is a toolkit that supports the development of 2D structured graphics programs, in general, and Zoomable User Interfaces (ZUIs), in particular. A ZUI is a new kind of interface that presents a huge canvas of information on a traditional computer display by letting the user smoothly zoom in, to get more detailed information, and zoom out for an overview. We use a “scene-graph” model that is common to 3D environments. Basically, this means that Piccolo maintains a hierarchal structure of objects and cameras, allowing the application developer to orient, group and manipulate objects in meaningful ways.
ZUIs make a lot of sense as the next step in interfaces, especially as we’re bombarded by more and more information. Of course, my crystal ball is off - I never thought the mouse would catch on. You can see some examples at the Piccolo website (you’ll have to be a .NET-compatible browser like Internet Explorer - sorry). Here’s a fisheye calendar. And a zoomable slide viewing program.
This may be one of those things I play around with this summer, if I get the time. Too much going on this coming spring (more on that later).