about WIMP and GUI

Recently I came across the clip on youtube showing a novel gui (graphic user interface), the BumpTop 3D Desktop , as a way to help manage a user to sort icons of documents on their computer’s desktop. Of interest are the subtle references to our habits in keeping some sort of organizational structure in chaotic piles of paper.
At first glance this gui looks playful and I thought it would be great to have, especially with a pen based input like on a tablet computer. Then I noticed that the stacks of documents just look like poker chips being pushed about ( the ‘$$$ ringed’ hand, at sec 12 in the clip, might be a give away).

The interaction with computers the input side of things is still mostly base on the WIMP (Windows, Icon, Mouse, Pointer) system a rather archaic way of interfacing with computers, especially when it comes to graphics or 3d modeling work. There are however some devices like the Phantom Haptic Device by Sensable that enable the operator to touch, feel and manipulate virtual environments.

More about haptic .

The following chapter is from a presentation at the Challenging Craft conference in Aberdeen, Scotland 2004.


Any research to integrate new technologies within craft can only benefit through the direct involvement of craft practitioners. Their ‘hands-on’ approach will shape the practical outcomes required to make new technologies a tool for their practice.

The following TACITUS project is an example of looking at how a craft practitioner could better interact with a CAD system. The lack of dexterity while designing on a CAD system, typically using only a mouse and keyboard, was at the heart of the TACITUS project.

Ann Marie Shillito presented a paper about the TACITUS project at the PixelRaiders 2 [6] conference in April 2004 at the Sheffield Hallam University. A practicing artist herself, she shared her findings in regards to this project: ‘Our research has identified that a niche exists, in the germinal phase of designing, for exploiting the potential of a digital medium with haptic feedback. Such an interface would enable idea formulation and creative activities to be performed with the same intuitive & fluid transmodal interaction as sketching on paper and with as great a sense and degree of engagement as in modelmaking.’ The stated aims of this three-year collaborative research project include the exploitation of the advantages of being able to work, think and respond in a virtual environment [to stay] more ‘in touch’ with creative working practices and to discover the degrees of multi-sensory feedback required for artists and designers to work intuitively using their tacit knowledge and skills. TACITUS was based on the Reachin Technologies using the Phantom Haptic Device that enables users to touch, feel and manipulate virtual environments. The user’s dominant hand holds the finely engineered force feedback pen-like mechanism which has had its stylus tip accurately calibrated to the x,y,z co-ordinates of the virtual space.

When I had ‘first-hand’ experience with such a device at the Haptic Workbench at Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Australia, I was intrigued how convincingly ones mind can be fooled by a simulated hand–eye interaction. After distorting virtual material for a while I noticed, that the hardest surface sensation the Phantom device was able to simulate was that of a cricket ball. When the simulated tool silently clicked against the virtual surface, it produced the feel of hitting leather. Being a silversmith I found this feedback irritating and distracting. This kind of research is an example of looking at the ‘front-end’, the input-side, trying to overcome the limitations of mouse and keyboard while interacting/modelling on CAD system.

[6] Ann Marie Shillito, Tacitus Project, http://www.pixelraiders.org/
Accessed 7/7/04, 3:10 pm.


5 Responses to “about WIMP and GUI”

  1. 1 sharonb 13/06/2007 at 8:28 AM

    Interesting interface and the idea of thinking through what actually happens on a desktop is a really interesting development in interface design. Any interface that is designed to mesh with the way humans think, work and create is a step forward as so often it is the person using the technolgogy that has to adapt their thought processes to the logic of the machine. The development enables rather than frustrates.

  2. 2 Tom Morris 14/06/2007 at 1:39 AM

    That’s a cool video, but gestural interfaces date back to the days of the light pen and green screen displays (ie 50s/60s) and have struggled to find general applicability. http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~amulet/papers/uihistory.tr.html

    The Phantom line of haptic devices is from Sensable, not Reachin. Reachin’s addition is the half-silvered display that let’s you appear to “reach in” to the space that you are working in. They’re at http://www.reachin.se.

    Ann Marie Shilito’s work has been spun out into Anarkik3D Ltd.

  3. 3 virtualterritory 15/06/2007 at 12:40 AM

    Dear Tom,

    Many thanks for your response, links and correction about the producer of the Phantom device. I will adjust it in the post sorry for muddling the facts. What I found particularly successful in Ann Marie Shilito’s work as part of the Tacitus project was the simulated ‘co-location’ using the stereoscopic projection calibrated to the perceived position of the force feedback device. I hope Anarkik3D will go well and I am sure we will ‘see’ better ways to interact with virtual 3d space, especially for 3d modeling.

    Further to gestural input, as a happy user of an Apple Newton for many years (the only platform where I never lost a file on) I quite like the pen based entry and control. In the demo of the upcoming iPhone, Apple demonstrated a multi-touch interface where one can ‘pinch’ images to zoom in or out. Back to finger drawing the most immediate way of mark making.



  4. 4 Dominique 05/11/2008 at 9:48 PM

    hello i thought i would drop in a comment to tell you how amazing your website is.

    i fell of my chair because i was so blown away. all my friends thought it was my ashtma but then they looked at your website and they new it would be the website

    you are genuises
    its a really intresing development

    i love your writing font
    and how you have some words in blue

    kind regaaurds x

  5. 5 virtualterritory 05/11/2008 at 10:58 PM

    Dear Dominique,

    thank you very much for your praise (I hope you did not hurt yourself?)



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