With a pen-like stylus and a “physics-enabled” virtual workspace prototyped by BumpTop, you can organize electronic files into piles just like you do on your real desktop. I’m not sure whether this shows radical innovation or utter insanity; either way, it’s impressive.
We’ve considered the virtues of messiness before, but you’re probably wondering just why we’d want to bring the mess of the real world into cyberspace. Well, this system is not really about messiness, but rather about a different kind of order than the folders and files metaphor used by desktop operating systems today. The idea is that the way we organize papers and other items on our desk into piles holds meaning — we might, for example, create a pile for each project we’re currently working on.
The prototype workspace shown in the video has a bunch of cool features. When you “pick up” a file with the pen, it’s attached to the pen position by a spring, to give it a physical feel. Pushing a file up against another file bumps it out of the way. You can crumple up a file to represent an intermediate step towards eventual deletion. You can also fold the corner of a file to distinguish it from other files.
Whether this represents a viable way of dealing with electronic files is not clear, but it does show how cool future user interfaces will be.