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Many constrained interfaces are designed to be simpler than the real world by restricting movement, limiting interface actions, and keeping interface objects in a plane. However, the strong utility of pure 3D interfaces for medical, architectural, product design, and scientific visualization means that interface design for pure 3D remains an important challenge. An intriguing possibility is that enhanced 3D interfaces might offer simpler navigation, more compelling functionality, safer movements, and less occlusion, than 3D reality, especially for information exploration and visualization tasks. Such features can enable superhuman capabilities such as faster-than-light teleportation, flying through objects, and X-ray vision. Enhanced 3D interfaces might have supernatural tools such as magic wands for instantly shrinking, enlarging, duplicating, or sending objects and enchanted environments that provide error prevention, history keeping, and programming-by-demonstration. Playful game designers and creative application developers have already pushed the technology further than those who seek merely to mimic reality. Advanced designs are marked by their support of rapid situation awareness through effective overviews, reduced numbers of actions to accomplish tasks; and prompt, meaningful feedback for user actions. This article reviews these clever enhanced 3D-design features and encourages approaches that facilitate user tasks rather than mimic reality.
Date of Publication: Nov.-Dec. 2003