Rant against 3D

At the Metaverse conference ("Pathways to the 3D Web"), it seems that there were some good discussions about errors of the past concerning the overemphasis on 3D as the solution for moving beyond the current interfaces. Here is what Randy (from the Habitat weblog) says about this:

3-D isn't an interface paradigm. 3-D isn't a world model. 3-D isn't the missing ingredient. 3-D isn't an inherently better representation for every purpose. 3-D is an attribute, like the color blue. Any time you read or hear about how great 3-D is and how it's going to change everything about computers and services, substitute the word blue for 3-D.

Don't get me wrong; there are great applications for 3D. That's not the point. The point is that idealistic assumptions and techno-optimism are no substitute for understanding what people actually want and do when they interact with each other, whether via computers or in the physical world.

Let's not repeat the path VRML took - that'd be a double waste and I won't do it. Let's figure out the problem first, and then look to see if a global-shared-3d-standard-UI-identity-object-system is the solution. So far, I haven't found a single one.

Why do I blog this? I am concerned by people's interaction in space/place (be it physical or virtual) and my feeling is that there is always on overemphasis on 3D. Yesterday it was on the web: having boring 3D libraries to pick up books instead than having a amazon-based interface. Today, it's on cell phones, people design 3D application on tiny cell phones screen; I don't really see the point in that. There is clearly an overemphasis about reproducing spatial topographies in 3D, which is not systematically pertinent for interactions. The point is not to have the same structure but more to have a common "place": a virtual location that affords specific interactions.

And of course, this should not undermine the value of 3D, MMORPG clearly shows that they are pertinent and meaningful.