October 18, 2021

How HoloLens Will Change Windows UI – (2) Another Dimension

We know Windows is a 2D operating system. The main user interfaces are made of “windows”, sometimes dialogs. Even desktop (a blank screen with icons) is a window of itself. Windows can dock with the four edges of the display, or with each other. They can float and stack on top of each other. Programmers know that in Windows, windows are actually organized in 3D, there is a Z-axis. When they pile up on top of each other, there is a Z-index to tell who is on top of whom.  But it is still 2D, because the display is 2D.

Windows 1.0 was released in 1985. For the past 30 years, Windows has been contained in a 2D display surface: from small to large, from spherical to cylindrical, to flat, from CRT to LCD/LED. One thing is consistent: Windows can never break the display boundary. The information it can display is limited by the screen.

In 2019, You May Not Need a Smartphone, Or a Tablet

Now we have HoloLens, we have a third dimension. You see, all of a sudden, the barrier is broken. To be sure, one more dimension is a lot of screen estate. To get the idea how much more screen space we have gained from this: Not only the XY dimensions are enlarged to as much as you can see(in reality there is field of view constraint too), but also Z-dimension can go as far as your physical vision permits (actually it is limited by the walls). So now, theoretically, HoloLens turns a 25″ surface display into a whole room, which is only constrained by the walls. The question is: what do we do with it? Choices are: 1. We don’t need to do anything, we have a giant 3D display, we can fill it with anything we like. 2. We can automate the windows organization to take advantage of the new dimension and new spaces.

PC + HoloLens: Would It Work?

One idea I have in mind is to change the way windows stacking and docking works: allow to select open apps and one gesture to dock them, same gesture to break them and put them back into their pinned position(see picture above). Also one gesture to stack open apps: along either X, Y, or Z axis (see pictures below). Also, multiple instance of the same apps can be stacked automatically. Remember in 3D holograms, windows don’t cover each other, even when stacked up!


stack stack2
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