Back to blog

UI inspired by real-world work spaces


BumpTop is a three dimensional desktop prototype that takes cues from real-world work spaces. It was designed by students Anand Agarawala and Ravin Balakrishnan who attended the DGP program at the University of Toronto. What’s interesting about this isn’t necessarily the idea of having a desktop that mimics an actual desk, rather, it’s some of the interface techniques being used. They challenge the normal “click” “drag” or “double click” methods of interaction. Here are some of note:


A technique used in some 3D programs for making selections. Multi-selections of this type exist today in current operating systems but are constrained to a rectangular shape. The lasso allows for organic shapes which adds much more accuracy/flexibility.


Pile Widgets

This isn’t so much about the “pile” as it is about the way an object’s options are presented. BumpTop uses this “menu” to present view options but the technique could be used for a variety of options. In current OSs, right clicking an object reveals a text menu of options like “open” “print” and “delete”. The BumpTop interface has more of a graphical radial layout. I like this for a couple of reasons. 1) It limits the number of options that can be presented at one time – this would ensure that only truly useful options are presented and 2) I would theorize that it is easier to memorize an option’s position in this form rather than a textual list. For example: “print icon is top left” vs “print is third from top”. Of course, a symbol isn’t always as clear as the word itself – so design would play a huge factor in the success of such an interface element.


Lasso Menu

Again, I’ve seen similar things in other software apps, but never in an OS. This technique has similar benefits to that of the “Pile Widget”.


Gestures: Lasso’n'Cross

There are quite a few gesture techniques being used here. Of note is the “Lasso’n'Cross” which allows users to select and group objects in one stroke.


It’s a little academic at times – but – it certainly challenges current conventions. You can watch a demo of it here:

Geoff Teehan More posts by Geoff Teehan