ViewCube: A 3D Orientation Indicator and Controller (3:16 min.)
Video title (x:xx min.)
Literally hundreds of thousands of users of 2D computer-aided design (CAD) tools are in the difficult process of transitioning to 3D CAD tools. A common problem for these users is disorientation in the abstract virtual 3D environments that occur while developing new 3D scenes. To help address this problem, we present a novel in-scene 3D widget called the ViewCube as a 3D orientation indicator and controller. The ViewCube is a cubeshaped widget placed in a corner of the window. When acting as an orientation indicator, the ViewCube turns to reflect the current view direction as the user re-orients the scene using other tools. When used as an orientation controller, the ViewCube can be dragged, or the faces, edges, or corners can be clicked on, to easily orient the scene to the corresponding view. We conducted a formal experiment to measure the performance of the ViewCube comparing: (1) ArcBall-style dragging using the ViewCube for manual view switching, (2) clicking on face/edge/corner elements of the ViewCube for automated view switching and (3) clicking on a dedicated row of buttons for automated view switching. The results indicate that users prefer and are almost twice as fast at using the ViewCube with dragging compared to clicking techniques, independent of a number of ViewCube representations that we examined.
While advances in computing have empowered users to design and interact with objects in virtual three-dimensional space, little effort has been made to improve or facilitate interaction with the viewpoint. Once we begin to consider this problem, we find that it effectively spans a huge problem domain with many special cases. It touches on many of the fundamental difficulties in 3D interaction: being inside an object vs. being outside, how close is the viewpoint to the object, what is the user looking at and/or is interested in, egocentric vs. exocentric thinking, parallel vs. perspective viewing projections, multiscale and level-of-detail issues, what kind of data is being examined (abstract, incomplete, photoreal, engineering, CAD, entertainment, medical, simulation, etc.), and what is the user task (authoring, inspecting, etc.). Additional technical issues include correct handling of the clipping planes and floating-point precision problems. To help understand and address some of these issues, we have an ongoing research program to improve the state-of-the-art in 3D navigation.
Designing user interfaces for interacting with 3D data involves a number of factors that are not found in traditional 2D interfaces. In this project, we explore subtle yet critical aspects of 3D control and feedback. A number of research outcomes have been integrated into several Autodesk products and we continue to explore this complex area.