I got a new computer a year and a half ago and it came with a fast multi-core processor and a fancy 3D graphics card. I was excited by the prospect of some serious 3D goodness and I wasn’t disappointed. Compiz did all sorts of whizzy and imoressive things. However, after my excitement had died down and I settled in to do some real work I ended up turning off Compiz because it offered not real productivity gains and was chewing up resources just looking pretty.
Not being a gamer I have no real use for my fancy 3D card other than my occasional renderings using Blender. So for me, and many other users, 3D is a gimmick in search of a practical use. It needs a killer app or apps that make use of the 3D to do something other than make things look pretty.
What about a 3D file manager? With a conventional 2D file manager it is often difficult to get an good impression of file system usage and the layout of directories. Using a 3D representation it would be easy to get an overview of the file system whilst also being able to inspect things more closely.
My suggestion, and I’m sure there are other equally valid choices, would be to see the file system as a city (or even a country) where directories could be at first displayed as districts, then sub-districts, housing estates, blocks of flats and down to individual flats and houses. This would enable the user to fly around the file system and to see, at a glance, how space is distributed. Bigger directories would be relatively bigger houses, buildings or districts. It would also be possible to see sub-directories within a number of directories at the same time as you could be looking at a number of buildings within a sub-district and see the flats within them.
Using could coding it would be easy to see it a directory contains many small files or just a one or a few big ones, for example. There are also a number of ways that the view could be displayed depending on the depth of the file system. Deep file systems could start at a country or even world map and go down to individual rooms withing flats or houses if necessary. The trick is to use the 3D experience to make it intuitive for a user to navigate and to get information that he or she wouldn’t be able to easily get from a 2D representation.
There must be many ways where 3D can be used to make information more readily accessible in a way that works well fo0r our brains. We just need to think outside of the box and stop thinking of 3D as something to make things pretty. Afterall we live in a 3D world and interact with things daily based on their position within three dimensions so it can be that hard to think of ways of using that to display data meaningfully.