Working in 3D:1. Natural Filing
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Article by Virtual Worldlets Network
Copyright 02/07/2007
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Working in 3D, true 3D space when using computer systems of all types has long been hailed as a paradigm breaking idea. For decades it has been dreamed after as a goal. For over half a century researchers have worked towards it.

What then, does working on a computer, in virtual space, have to offer the workforce, that traditional ways of working do not?

1. Natural Filing

Computer filing systems are not always the most logical of structures to work around. Even experienced users sometimes create mad colonies of folders in an attempt to visualise the file structure into some kind of order. This winds up with a system that makes perfect sense to them, only whilst looking at the string of names in a particular folder.

When it comes to finding any data in the system, often the same person as created the filing system for logical layout, has to resort to using the search engine to find anything IN it.

It is needless to say that this is not a good system of filing. Maybe if all the visualisation work was taken out of it; all already visualised in the 3D environment, then the system would be much less complicated.

If your computer's filing system looked a little like this:

This is not wallpaper, but a fully functional filing interface; 3DNA

What might be the benefits?

Intuative work

Beside the water bag lay her schoolwork, represented by a three-ring binder suffering the indignities of artificial bit-rot, it?s wireframe cover festered with digital mung. She?d have to reformat that before she started her new school, she reminded herself. Too juvenile.

Source: Idoru, Page: 34

It is far more logical and intuitive for many, to physically walk through a room, reach out and grasp the filing cabinet drawer, slide it open and look for a folder than it is to use the complicated maze of computer system folders.

With the former, filing is a purely visual approach. You can see everything and it makes sense. You can grasp individual files within the filing cabinet, and see their size visually represented before you. Even if it says it is the right client's file, you know before you take it out that it's not the right one if you are looking for a comprehensive, hundred page report, and there are only two bits of paper in the folder.

If we take this metaphor and apply it directly to the computer system, where instead of a clutter of folders and icons, we have any number of filing cabinets and draws, that can be placed wherever you like, as many as you like, and made to appear however is best for you, we start to see some benefits. If we then make it so the draws slide open at a touch, displaying their contents in similar 3D form so you can see them, and reach for them individually, then we are emulating the naturalness of the physical filing system on the computer system.

As it is on a computer, in a virtual environment, it is possible to do things that improve over a physical filing system. For example, conducting a search on the filing cabinet. Simply telling the filing cabinet some details of the file you are looking for, so that it finds it, brings it to the front of the drawer for you to open and lift out.

Likewise, if you desire all records in the drawer sorted alphabetically by name, no need to get someone to do it, its computerised. Tell the drawer to organise by name, or surname, phone number or location, then just lift out the files you desire.

Greater Workspace

The room is filled with a three dimensional constellation of hypercards, hanging weightlessly in the air. It looks like a high-speed photograph of a blizzard in progress. In some places the hypercards are placed in geometric patterns, like atoms in a crystal. In other places whole stacks of them are piled together. Drifts of them have accumulated in the corners as though Lagos tossedthem away when he was finished. Hiro finds that his avatar can walk through the hypercards without disturbing the arrangement. It is, in fact, the three dimensional equivalent of a messy desktop.

Source: Snow Crash, Page: 199

Unlike the physical world, if the virtual workspace is coded to allow it, there is no reason whatsoever why a file cannot be taken out of the filing cabinet, or from a folder, or other storage metaphor - all are storage units, they just look different visually - and just left to hang in mid-air.

This allows true brainstorming, moving concepts around, working out relationships in 3D. You move amongst them, rather than having to just look at one screen at a time, open files in windows, and just leave those windows there, hanging in mid air. Leave the office like that, come back the next morning and continue where you left off.

Work in different windows simply by turning to face them, calling them into focus. Type a bit for one, then turn and type for another. The display tracks round following your head movements, your arm movements. It does not lock you in to one single document window. Just like moving from one piece of paper to another on a desk, save your desk is all the space in the room. Lay work on something else, or just leave it hanging in the air.

Always take your Office with You

But there?s no problem with going into his office; because that?s generated within the guts of his computer, which is sitting on his lap; he doesn?t need any communication with the outside world for that. He materializes in his office, in his nice little house, in the old hacker neighbourhood just off the street.It is all quite Nipponese: tatami mats cover the floor. His desk is a great, ruddy slab of rough-sawn mahogany. Silvery cloud-light filters through rice-paper walls. A panel in front of him slides open to reveal a garden. Complete with babbling brook and steelhead trout jumping out from time to time to catch flies.

Source: Snow Crash, Page: 99

How many times have you cursed yourself for heading out, and leaving something you needed back at the office?

If your office is for all intents and purposes, on your computer, with all files you require on a daily basis, on it, or accessible from it, and you are, as is the increasing trend, a digital nomad able to work from anywhere then you will always have everything in your office with you, wherever you go.

Your working environment can be anything you can imagine, from a desk-log in the middle of steaming, noisy jungle, to a quarter of a mosh pit to an asteroid amoung the stars. It does not matter the environs within which you work, simply what makes you the most comfortable and most productive you can be.

Ultimate Collaboration

?In that case, you are in possession of some very valuable intel,? Uncle Enzo says. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a hypercard and hands it toward Hiro. It says:


Hiro reaches out and takes the card. Somewhere on earth, two computers swap bursts of electronic noise and the money gets transferred from the Mafi?s account to Hiro?s.

Source: Snow Crash, Page: 368

This is one of the most powerful fundimentals of virtual environment based work. Ther guts of any action are hidden away. You get the visuals, the tactiles, the smells and sounds. How an action actually works is done in the background. To let someone have data, you just give it to them; if you desire a copy, you make one first.

As its a 3D environment, you literally just have to pick a file up, hold it, then hand it to the avatar of a colleague. That's it, your computer automatically transfers the file to their computer, behind the scenes. Every aspect of work is utterly intuative, and no time is wasted on the how-to-do, you just do.