Monday, October 25, 2004

Care to See a Menu?

Croquet technology is so flexible that it can be used to develop any sort of graphical user interface that can be imagined. This presents a wonderful challenge for us as we tackle the task of defining the GUI for the first release of Croquet. However, does developing this new technology mean that we should also develop a completely different 3D GUI than the 2D ones we are currently accustomed to using? After all, what place do menus, pop-up panels, dialog boxes, and right-click menus have in a 3D collaborative space? At first glance, you might consider the development of a different type of GUI than the ones in our more traditional applications to be an appropriate thing for us to do first. From a personal perspective, it is what I would prefer to do. However, I am torn on this issue.

My experience as an educational technologist here at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has taught me that getting anywhere near a majority people to explore and use new technology is harder than one might imagine. That is because it is not uncommon for most people to have considerable difficulty dealing with even the most subtle changes to how they are accustomed to using computers. Because of this, the University of Wisconsin-Madison commits significant resources toward helping its faculty and instructional staff transition to the use of new and emerging technologies that improve teaching and learning. And because of this, I also must consider that a simple and familiar GUI is what we must develop for the first release of Croquet. We must lower the barriers to entry as far as possible. Only then will we be able to harness the power of the creative commons in the manner we have described in our papers.

Since everything in Croquet is fully modifiable, it is possible for many different GUIs to be developed as applications are built. However, we still have to start somewhere. Here at UW we are designing and developing the first iteration of a simple and familiar default interface for Croquet v1.0. that can allow technologically naive people to quickly and easily access the power of the underlying technology. The idea is that, through a simple and familiar interface, educators and others will be able to access the power of Croquet easily and efficiently and develop collaborative learning environments and simulations (and with out the need to program in Squeak). In this way we will truly open up the power of this technology to the broadest collaborative user base at institutions of higher education. Once people have success with the system, they will then be able to then easily progress to deeper levels of scripting and programming. We hope that by developing an easy to use interface, we will stimulate the more rapid development of interesting, exciting, and useful exemplars. Just imagine what can happen when all kinds of subject area experts (not just programmers) can easily implement their ideas in Croquet spaces...

1 comment:

tao said...

Yeah, our (CITRIS) early attempts to test with non-computer people is showing little-to-no tolerance for a non-familiar UI. Even small stuff like double-clicking not doing what they expect and they are done. I am still hopeful we can suck them into novel 3D interfaces in the space itself, but the 2D stuff needs to be soothing and familiar, which means as close to Windows or Mac as we can get.