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I am finding that WIMP is becoming a broken paradigm. If you have enough screens and enough rdp terminals open, and enough browser tabs it starts to work against you. Given that the ideas behind windowing systems is over thirty years old, is there anything better on the horizon?

I have heard that 3D interfaces are a gimmick, but don’t know if this is true. Have we already reached close to the optimum HCI, with the only improvements being in better taskbars and tabs? Or is there a step change or two in the works?

I am more interested in ways to manage different applications and information displayed to me, rather than input devices which does seem to have some innovation (touch, voice).

Links to anything interesting on this subject would be greatly appreciated.

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What is HCI? What is WIMP? –  Peter Mortensen Jul 31 '09 at 15:57
WIMP: Windows Icons Menus and Pointing device (though many consider this to be an old term for a GUI, WIMP systems are more accurately considered a subset of GUIs). HCI: Human/Computer Interaction or Human/Computer Interface. –  David Spillett Jul 31 '09 at 16:26
Just noticed I responded to a "what is this TLA/ETLA" question with an extra TLA... GUI: Graphical User Interface. –  David Spillett Jul 31 '09 at 16:27
I would suggest making this a CW. Although this is not subjective there is not really a concrete answer –  Diago Jul 31 '09 at 16:28
Made wiki, please can people help flesh out the question, I am just really interested in GUI improvements (although not all perhaps graphical, could be audible, tactile) –  Jeremy French Jul 31 '09 at 16:31

3 Answers 3

up vote 1 down vote accepted

I never accepted the whole 'icons' part of WIMP
but I wish we could use more than one pointing device...

With the advent of touch devices this is starting to gain some traction, but is far from being built into the GUI. There was a driver you could get to drive another mouse into your display, but again, the applications are mostly unaware of them.

3D interfaces have some promise, but cloning the desktop onto sides of a rotating cube are not enough.

I'm a bit worried about the comment that the H in HCI must improve...
Fighter jets can far outperform what a pilot can handle,
so is there hope of improvement?

The correlary is that Apple newton could learn your handwriting,
but the palmpilot taught the human to adapt instead.

I'd like to see some of the visualization ideas become more common place,
like fisheye lenses and stuff

further reading: http://www.cs.umd.edu/hcil/research/visualization.shtml

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Thanks for the link. Very interesting. –  Jeremy French Aug 3 '09 at 14:04

Once you have as many things going as you list in your question, no interface is going to help you much more than what we currently have.

While we as humans are capable of a certain amount of multi-tasking most of us are not capable of keeping track of a great many things at once. Tools that try to help us manage many things at once usually end up interrupting our train of thought so often that they actually reduce our efficiency, not increase it.

So until the H in HCI is somehow improved, there is a limit to what the C can do to improve the I when dealing with many tasks.

I suspect that any HCI improvements we will see will be specific to particular tasks, not the massive general bag of tasks that modern GUIs are expected to facilitate.

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Interesting answer, but it seems that there could be some ways to organise tasks, trains of thought etc better. Especially with the awesome amount of graphical power available, it must be able to do something better than aero –  Jeremy French Jul 31 '09 at 16:33
Once you his a certain level of complexity, what works for one group of people can be counter intuitive to others. So perhaps we'll see more AI int he interface tailoring itself to the user. Though this could be a nightmare when it comes to the initial training a large group of users on a new application... –  David Spillett Jul 31 '09 at 16:36
Agree, it won't be the desktop OS that breaks from WIMP anytime soon although it can continue to take advantage of added power (e.g. Exposé, Time Machine). Special-use devices like the iPhone or Microsoft's Surface will be able to innovate, and successful parts of that user experience might be brought back to the desktop. –  jtb Jul 31 '09 at 16:45

While touch screens have been around for a while, they are just a substitute for a mouse. Apple made an significant improvement with multitouch. But we need to expand this to a true gesture based system. Soon inexpensive visions systems will be able to watch our hands in 3D. This will give us new and intuitive ways to interface with our software. I think this will be the primary interface of the near future.

I know everyone likes voice input, but most of us work in a group of people. Several people all talking to their PCs at once will not work well.

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