Wednesday, April 4, 2007

ZUIs: Archy, Zenzui, iPhone and Deepfish

When I wrote the post about the Zenzui interface I wasn't aware of the fact that efforts have been made for a long time to develop ZUIs - Zooming User Interfaces. The idea is a desktop that is infinitely expandable in all directions, as well as zoomable to get an overview or to show detail. To my knowledge the Zooming User Interface is one part of "ARCHY", a proposed system for interacting with computers designed by Jef Raskin. He first described these ideas in his book The Humane Interface which was published in 2000.

Apple is making efforts in that direction with the introduction of virtual desktops called "Spaces" in the upcoming release of Leopard. The upcoming iPhone also uses a stylized form of ZUI. Since the iPhone will use Safari and the full web experience, Apple needed a way to pan through the information on a small screen and came up with double tapping to zoom in and out, as well as pushing/panning of the page with swipes of your finger.
Apparently Apple has beat Microsoft efforts in that area to the punch. Look at Microsoft's Deepfish (see Demo) technology. The similarities are obvious, although the navigation of the interface by joystick seems a bit clutsy.

It is always so interesting to me, that all these concepts have been around for a long while. Some companies - usually Apple - just implement them better. Then they are called innovators, but their ideas were never produced out of thin air. It's a process and many smart people have contributed.

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