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The seminal papers in the field were only written in the mid- to lates, the most-cited book in the field was published in , and the IEEE Symposium on 3D User Interfaces didn't begin until There is no standard 3D UI and it's not clear that there could be, given the diversity of input devices, displays, and interaction techniques , and few well-established guidelines for 3D UI design. Thus, it's important to have specific design principles for 3D interaction. While the 3D UI book Bowman et al.

Despite the youth of the field, there is a very large number of existing 3D interaction techniques for the so-called "universal tasks" of travel, selection, manipulation, and system control.

In many cases, these techniques can be reused directly or with slight modifications in new applications. The lists of techniques in the 3D UI book Bowman et al. When existing techniques are not sufficient, new techniques can sometimes be generated by combining existing technique components. Taxonomies of technique components Bowman et al. A wide variety of techniques already existsit is impossible to innovate in 3D UI design.

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On one hand, most of the primary metaphors for the universal tasks have probably been invented already. On the other hand, there are several reasons to believe that there are new, radically different metaphors than what we currently have. First, we know the design space of 3D interaction is very large due to the number of devices and mappings available. Second, 3D interaction design can be magical—limited only by the designer's imagination.


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Third, new technologies such as the Leap Motion device with the potential for new forms of interaction are constantly appearing. For example, in a recent project in our lab, students used a combination of recent technologies multi-touch tablet, 3D reconstruction, marker-based AR tracking, and stretch sensors to enable "AR Angry Birds"—a novel form of physical interaction with both real and virtual objects in AR Figure 3. Finally, techniques can be designed specifically for specialized tasks in various application domains.

For example, we designed domain-specific interaction techniques for object cloning in the architecture and construction domain Chen and Bowman, One of the most common problems in 3D UI design is the use of inappropriate mappings between input devices and actions in the interface. When this principle is violated, performance suffers. Similarly, there are often problems with the mappings of input DOFs to actions.

When a high-DOF input is used for a task that requires a lower number of DOFs, task performance can be unnecessarily difficult. For example, selecting a menu item is inherently a one-dimensional task. If users need to position their virtual hands within a menu item to select it a 3-DOF input , the interface requires too much effort. A violation of this concept, for example, would be to use a six-DOF tracker to simultaneously control the 3D position of an object and the volume of an audio clip, since those tasks cannot be integrated by the user. This can be done by using lower-DOF input devices, by ignoring some of the input DOFs, or by using physical or virtual constraints.

For example, placing a virtual 2D interface on a physical tablet prop Schmalstieg et al. Although 3D UIs can be very expressive and can support complex tasks, not all tasks in a 3D UI need to use fully general interaction techniques. When the user's goal is simple, designers should provide simple and effortless techniques. For example, there are many general-purpose travel techniques that allow users to control the position and orientation of the viewpoint continuously, but if the user simply wants to move to a known landmark, a simple target-based technique e.

For instance, travel techniques can require only two DOFs if terrain following is enabled. Users typically can't remember a large number of gestures, and remembering the mapping between buttons and functions becomes difficult after only buttons are used. In traditional UIs, we usually try to design without regard for the display or the input device i. UIs should be just as usable no matter whether you are using a large monitor or a small laptop, with a mouse or a trackpad.

This is not always strictly true—when you have a very large multi-monitor setup, for example. But in 3D UIs, what works on one display or with one device very rarely works exactly the same way on different systems. We call this the migration issue. When migrating to a different display or device, the UI and interaction techniques often need to be modified. In other words, we need display- and device-specific 3D UIs.

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In addition, we had to add controls for rotating the world due to the missing back wall of the CAVE. More recently, we tried to migrate WIM to use the Kinect, and were not able to find any reasonable mapping that allowed users to easily manipulate both the WIM and the virtual hand with six DOFs. Users in HMDs don't want to turn their heads, much less move their bodies. Moving a hand in two dimensions parallel to a screen is fine, but moving a hand towards or away from the screen doesn't come naturally.

When using 3D travel techniques, users don't take advantage of the ability to fly, or to move sideways, or to walk through virtual walls Bowman et al. Because of this, we find that we often have to train our users before they become proficient at using even well designed 3D UIs. In most of the HCI community, the need for training or instruction is seen as a sign of bad design , but in the examples mentioned above, effective use requires users to go against their instincts and intuitions.

If a minimal one-minute training session allows users to improve their performance significantly, we see that as both practical and positive. Finally, we suggest that all 3D UI designs should undergo formative, empirical usability evaluation with members of the target user population. While this guideline probably applies to all UIs, 3D UIs in particular are difficult to design well based on theory, principles, and intuition alone.

Many usability problems don't become clear until users try the 3D UI. In this final section, I want to highlight two of the interesting problems 3D UI researchers are addressing today. One of the fundamental issues in 3D UI design is the tension between realistic and magical interaction.

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Many feel that 3D interaction should be as "natural" as possible, reusing and reproducing interactions from the real world so that users can take advantage of their existing skills, knowing what to do and how to do it. On the other hand, 3D UIs primarily allow users to interact with virtual objects and environments, whose only constraints are due to the skill of the programmer and the limits of the technology.

Thus, "magic" interaction is possible, enabling the user to transcend the limitations of human perception and action, to reduce or eliminate the need for physical effort and lengthy operations, and even to perform tasks that are impossible in the real world. This question is related to the concept of interaction fidelity , which we define as the objective degree with which the actions characterized by movements, forces, body parts in use, etc.

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By talking about the degree of fidelity, we emphasize that we are not just talking about "realistic" and "non-realistic" interactions, but a continuum of realism, which itself has several different dimensions. Consider an example. For the task of moving a virtual book from one location on a desk to another, we could, among many other options: a map the movements of the user's real hand and fingers exactly, requiring exact placement, grasping, and releasing, b position a 3D cursor over the book, press a button, move the cursor to the target position, and release the button, or c choose "move" from a menu, and then use a laser pointer to indicate the book and the target location.

Clearly, option a is the most natural, option b uses a natural metaphor but leaves out some of the less necessary details of the real-world interaction, and option c has very low interaction fidelity. Option a is probably the easiest for a novice user to learn and use, providing that the designer can replicate the actions and perceptual cues from the real world well enough, although option b is the simplest and may be just as effective.

Some tasks are very difficult or impossible to do in the real world. What if I want to remove a building from a city? A highly natural 3D UI would require the user to obtain some virtual explosives or a virtual crane with a wrecking ball, and operate these over a long period of time. Here a "magic" technique, such as allowing the user to "erase" the building, or selecting the building and invoking a "delete" command by voice, is clearly more practical and effective.

In many cases of difficult tasks, the question is not whether we should use a natural or magical 3D UI, because the purely natural technique wouldn't be practical. Instead, the question is whether to use a natural metaphor. For example, in the real world I cannot pick up objects that are beyond arm's reach, but in the virtual world I can. Should I do this with a reaching and grasping metaphor, as in the Go-Go technique Poupyrev et al. In this case, the less natural laser pointer metaphor is more effective in terms of user performance, but enhanced natural metaphors are easy to learn and highly usable in many situations.

Because techniques like Go-Go use natural metaphors to extend users' abilities beyond what's possible in the real world, we refer to them as hyper-natural.

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There is not a single answer to the question of whether to choose natural, hyper-natural, or non-natural magic techniques, but overall, research has shown significant benefits for the natural and hyper-natural design approaches Bowman et al. A major disadvantage of 3D UIs based on spatial tracking systems is the difficulty of providing precise 3D spatial input.

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The modern mouse is a highly precise, accurate, and responsive 2D spatial input device—users can point at on-screen elements, even individual pixels, quickly and accurately. But even if 3D spatial tracking systems improve their specifications to be comparable with today's mouse, 3D UIs will still have a precision problem, for the following reasons:.

So is there any hope of 3D UIs that can be used for precise work? A partial solution is to filter the output of 3D spatial trackers to reduce noise, but filtering can cause other problems, such as increased latency. Current research is addressing the precision problem using several different strategies.

The simple idea here is to use an N:1 mapping between movements of the input device control and movements in the system display , where N is greater than one.