Imagine the desktop environment modeled entirely in 3D. You have windows, buttons and icons represented by 3D geometry placed inside a virtual world. Every object is illuminated by a sun that swings slowly across your desktop. Objects cast shadows, reflect surrounding objects, and illuminate each other. This creates “noise”, but if you change it ever so slightly…
Imagine that sun moves across your desktop at the same rate as the sun outside your window would, casting different shadows and hues at different times of the day. Add some particle effects to simulate clouds, rain, wind and vehicle emissions. The result? A weather indicator that would blow Atmosphere away, pun intended. This is only one example of “ambient notifications”.
The inventors of the patent, “Noisy operating system user interface”; David Vronay, Lili Cheng, Baining Guo and Sean Kelly (from Microsoft) believes a little bit of noise is good. Apparently there is a psychological phenomenon called “just noticeable difference”, or JND. It describes the human perception of change subconsciously. The benefit of this psychological ’sense’ presents a method of communicating change without being consciously aware of it. But noise is a prerequisite.
People can perceive changes even without being consciously aware of changes below the JND. For instance, it is impossible not to notice a telephone ringing in one’s own quiet office. But if one works in a phone bank, where dozens or hundreds of phones are always ringing, it would be difficult or impossible to process every ring. However, a person working on the phone bank might have a general (ambient) sense of whether it was a busy day or a slow day even without being consciously aware of each individual ring.
Leading to the software implementation, realistically speaking, 3D desktops are still years away for the mass-market, but technically possible right now (ex. Sun’s Project Looking Glass). Don’t expect to see Solitaire in 3D anytime soon.
Aero Glass touches only the surface of a noisy user interface with translucency. Could Motion Desktop dive deeper into the idea? Potentially rendering desktops that reflect information you want to know in the back of your head, like the weather or even how hot AERO is making your GPU sweat. It’d sure be useful.