Where Computer Interfaces Are Going : 3D Beyond Games

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This article serves two purposes. It is a discussion about the future of computer interfaces; and it is a means by which I can purge myself of thoughts that have been accumulating on this topic for quite a few years. Even if it fails as intelligent discourse on the first, it will have succeeded in the second. Previously the title was Where Are Computer Interfaces Going? but after writing it I noticed a significant number of predictive passages and decided to be bold and move the "are". Of course now I feel obliged to add a disclaimer. I admit right here, or at least in the next sentence, that I don't know where computer interfaces are going. I don't know.

With that out of the way, I'd like to start, as many interfaces do, with the metaphor. In the 80s and 90s successful interface design and an appropriate metaphor were taken to be nearly synonymous. Although a good metaphor is important, it imposes unnecessary and artificial restrictions. So why is it so important? The best, perhaps only, reason is familiarity. Unfortunately, familiarity comes at a cost: the shorter learning curve can require speed and ability to be sacrificed.

Consider the ubiquitous desktop metaphor.

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