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Zoomable User Interface Toolkit

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).

Anyway, in that spirit, check out Piccolo, a product of the Human Computer Interaction Lab at the University of Maryland.

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).

(Hat tip here to Programmers Heaven, which I found by way of ACM Technews, a free technology news service that anyone can sign up for).

One Response to “Zoomable User Interface Toolkit”

  1. Ron Says:

    “you’ll have to be a .NET-compatible browser like Internet Explorer - sorry”

    The irony is that in the ASP.NET development environment you choose the target browser. So, it would be almost effortless to create another version of it for Mozilla/Firefox.

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