Infocube heralds end of drop-down menus and the shape of 3D user interfaces to come

The user interface is set to undergo a major change as 3D interaction begins to be used in applications, writes Eric Doyle. And...

The user interface is set to undergo a major change as 3D interaction begins to be used in applications, writes Eric Doyle. And Microsoft has announced plans to use it as the basis of the next generation of its desktop operating system.

UK firm Infocube is pioneering the genre with an interface that resembles the Rubic cube puzzle.

The master cube can be rotated to examine the smaller cubes that make it up. Any of the smaller cubes can be popped out and rotated separately from the master.

It allows the user to select a general area of interest, which could be applications, business areas or Web sites, the chosen cube can then be examined to reveal the sought-after application and clicking on this face launches the program.

Infocube founder Gordon Ross said this makes it easier to find information rather than navigating through menus and submenus in current interfaces. The Infocube was designed in conjunction with Brunel University.

During Microsoft's recent IT Forum in Denmark, Brian Valentine, senior vice-president for Microsoft Windows, revealed that the company is also looking at the use of 3D interfaces.

The next version of Windows XP, codenamed Longhorn, is not due to appear until 2004 and is barely in alpha testing.

At the moment it looks much like its predecessor but Valentine said all this is expected to change as development progresses.

"We are looking at turning the Windows interface into a 3D experience," he said. "The idea is to continue to make the interface more intuitive with each upgrade."

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