hmmmm. urbanpixel looks interesting. and well, when tog speaks, people listen:

“This recent startup has taken a grand leap forward by restoring the sense of collaboration and camaraderie that disappeared with the advent of the web. Using their patented technology, web site owners can lay out content spatially, generating a 2D overhead landscape view that unites web content with people.

This 2D stuff is very important. Not only are we still a decade away from having displays with resolutions sufficient for life-like 3D, their 2D view is so natural that it seems familiar—and, being pure HTML, its pretty easy to convert a web site over to the new view.

When you wander a store powered by Urbanpixel, you don’t see laundry lists of products. Instead, you traverse a virtual store with clustered displays of items, just like in the real world. And, like the real world, you see people, in the form of iconic avatars, wandering through the store with you.”

for an interesting contrast, there’s a recent article on from the new york times on 3d interfaces:

“Information architects assert that 3-D creations encourage communication, enhance education, clarify complex data and stimulate online sales, along with giving Web surfers a more lifelike environment.

On the Internet, 3-D “is going to change the world,” said Neil Trevett, president of the Web3D Consortium, an industry group trying to establish the technical standards for delivering 3-D data online. “The question is when, not if.””

“”We live in a three-dimensional world,” Mr. Thwaites said. “Historically, representations of that world have been flat, so people have constantly been trying to make them more like the real world. We’ve been chasing virtual reality for a long time, from cave paintings all the way up to computer-immersive environments.”

of course, there’s always a naysayer is the crowd:

“Most abstract information spaces work poorly in 3D because they are non-physical. If anything, they have at least a hundred dimensions, so visualizing an information
space in 3D means throwing away 97 dimensions instead of 98: hardly a big enough improvement to justify the added interface complexity.

In particular, navigation through a hyperspace (such as a website) is often very confusing in 3D, and users frequently get lost. 3D navigation looks very cool in a demo, but
that’s because you are not flying through the hyperspace yourself. Thus, you don’t have to remember what’s behind you or worry about what remote objects are hidden by
near-by objects. The person giving the demo knows where everything is (the first law of demos: never try to actually use the system for anything; simply step through a
well-rehearsed script that does not touch anything that might cause a crash).

Avoid virtual reality gimmicks (say, a virtual shopping mall) that emulate the physical world. The goal of Web design is to be better than reality. If you ask users to “walk
around the mall”, you are putting your interface in the way of their goal. In the physical world, you need to schlepp between shops; on the Web you teleport through
cyberspace directly to your destination using a navigational topology that conforms to user needs (assuming good information architecture, of course). ”

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