We're made for zooming

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It its newest issue, Newsweek publishes a detailed story on Microsoft’s Seadragon technology and the man behind it, Blaise Aguera y Arcas (who premiered it at TED07 last March, watch his speech), and discusses what it calls the "zoom interface":

The Internet, it seems, doesn’t take advantage of how humans best process information. Evolution granted Homo Sapiens a high degree of visual acuity … Scrolling and linking are inferior modes of taking in information. "Humans are incredibly good at spatial navigation and incredibly bad at navigating through a list of generic icons or generic text." … These limitations are not lost on the technology giants and forward-thinking entrepreneurs working to commercialize a new way to take in information visually: the zoom interface. In its simplest form, it displays information all at once – all the photos in an album, say, or all the files on a PC, or all the entries in a database, or all the items retrieved in a search – and when you spot something of interest, you zoom down into it. In this way, zooming represents an upgrade from the second- and third-best methods for accessing information (scrolling and linking) to the best option: displaying information like a landscape, and giving people the chance to zoom down to the details … Only recently have engineers had the advances in display technology, broadband connections and video processors capable of coping with a zoom interface. As a result, prototype zoom interfaces are now up and running in labs around the world.

And are arriving on the market. Think of Google Earth’s zooming capabilities, of the iPhone, of Jeff Han’s PerceptivePixel multi-touch wall (watch his speech at TED06), of Zumobi‘s zooming interface for cell phones, and many others.

Read the full Newsweek story.