The Orbital Browser:networked services management

Trevor Smith describes a new sort of user interface called the "Orbital Browser" meant to enable users to "discover networked services, select a subset of them, connect them, and finally control them in an appropriate manner". This is about "service composition", an interesting metaphor that would eventually be geared towards directing information coming from different sources, connect those sources and control them. It's designed at PARC by Nicolas Ducheneaut, Chris Beckmann, Trevor F. Smith, James “Bo” Begole, Mark W. Newman (CHI 2006).

To test our concept with real applications and data, we built the Orbital Browser on top of Obje (...) To compose services in Obje users need to create connections between components, thereby initiating the transfer of data. This entails browsing a list of available hosts (e.g. Bob’s laptop) and, once the right one has been found, selecting the host to browse its list of attached components (e.g. Bob’s DVD player, Bob’s screen). If one of these components is an aggregate (e.g. Bob’s “music collection” directory), users will need to expand it to see the list of components it contains (...) our Orbital Browser is (loosely) based on the “ball and stick” metaphor from the world of chemistry. In our system each “molecule” is a unique host on the network, represented by a small circle. Components are represented by larger “balls” connected to their host by a “stick.” These components are all placed at an equal distance from their host, as if they were “orbiting” it (see Figure 1). In turn, all “ball and stick” compounds are arranged at an equal distance from each other. (...) users interact with the Orbital Browser using a Powermate knob that can rotate in two directions and can also be pressed for a “click” action.

Look at the demonstration video

Why do I blog this? because this is an interesting example of how very simple primitives can be used to design a service that would allow to "act" in a pervasive world full of different networked services. I like this idea of service composition and data/source/flow management and I am curious about potential non-intended usage.