Wireless Wonders

No news, just comment about mobile phones and services, from a veteran practitioner...3G, GPRS, WAP, Bluetooth, WiFi, etc...

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Dual-perspective displays...idea #29/100...

My daughter showed me her badge. It is one of those badges that often come in cereal packets. Viewed from one direction, you get one image, viewed from another, you get a second image. Technically, this is called a lenticular badge.

The same technique is used to produce 3D displays, like the sort being demonstrated now on mobiles at Cebit. I recently went to a demo of such systems and the latest immersive displays. I found the 3D screen fascinating. The 3D effect and depth was excellent. I imagine that 3D displays for GPS navigation systems would be an interesting experience.

Returning to my daughter's badge. The use of the lenticular was to show two different images rather than the standard 3D effect.

It occurred to me that this has a possible use for mobiles to allow two screens of information to be viewed. For example, I could instantly skim up and down a WAP page without the cumbersome scrolling offered by most joypads.

I wonder if a lenticular could work in both horizontal and vertical planes, so that an area four times the size of the display can be easily scanned. Tiltable displays have already been demonstrated, where the single-image display switches according to user orientation. My hunch is that the lenticular possibility would provide a much more responsive "switch" and allow something approaching the visual skim, or scan, process that we are used to.

We seldom stop to think that skimming and scanning is an important and integral part of the web experience for most of us. It is what allows iterative information searches to be tolerable. Try doing a google search from a small screen device and you will rapidly encounter the problem.

Of course, other strategies are possible. For example, the first (i.e. most likely to be clicked) search links could be prefetched. As I have pointed out before, even with a 3G pipe, the speed of accessing a WAP page is dominated by delays other than the actual fetch time. Therefore, pre-fetching (which includes pre-rendering off-screen) the dominant links makes sense because in a way it takes advantage of the shorter fetch time across the entire session.

I'm straying off the topic of lenticular displays, but not entirely. Usability of the WAP (or mobile Web) experience is still of paramount importance commercially. I still feel it is never centrally addressed because of our collective mindset that "mobile Internet" is just "Web-lite". The concern is with technological compatibility and objectives (XHTML and HTTP) rather than usability compatibilities and objectives.

Scan-ability, or skim-ability, is an integral part of the web model. Watch carefully how your eyes jump to links etc. This feature is missing from "mobile Internet". It's not entirely a size problem. Design has something to do with it.

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