3-D Display and Interaction Interfaces:
A Trans-Disciplinary Approach
by Barry G. Blundell and Adam J. Schwarz
John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken,
371 pp., illus. Trade, $94.95
Reviewed by Rob Harle
a well researched, wide-ranging and extremely
detailed investigation into the way we
interact with computers. It concentrates
not on ergonomics or hardware styling
but on the visual and tactile interface
and how the display enhances, or in many
cases, limits our productivity and creativity.
The authors argue that in several fields,
especially medicine and certain scientific
disciplines, present flat screen computer
displays have significantly outgrown their
original word processing and number crunching
The book is comprehensively illustrated
with black & white diagrams, photographs,
and drawings and is divided into nine
chapters together with various Appendices,
an excellent Bibliography and vast reference
section. The following annotated chapter
headings will give the prospective reader
a good idea of the extent of this exploration.
1 The Nature of the Quest
describes traditional interfaces, the
possibilities and limitations of these.
2 The Perception of Our Space:
Vision is a detailed look at just
how we see things and includes neurophysiology
and psychological understanding of perception.
3 The Perception of Our Space:
Haptics briefly discusses such sensory
channels as cutaneous sensitivity, proprioception
and motor pathways.
4 A Backward Glance looks
at ways we have devised throughout history
to see things differently and includes
mathematics of linear perspective, Camera
Obscura and Lucida and the development
of perspective in painting.
5 Traditional Interaction Mechanisms
cover topics such as the joy stick, mouse,
graphics tablet and also discusses the
6 Depiction and Interaction
Opportunities this chapter
gets down to the nitty gritty of designing
better interfaces using techniques like
stereoscopic display, multi-view lenticular
systems and actual 3-D space displays.
7 The Haptic Channel looks
at force feedback systems, haptic interaction
with volumetric data and collision detection.
8 The Visual Channel discusses
immersive virtual reality systems, electroholography
and dynamic multi-view systems.
9 Adopting a Creative Approach
offers approaches to augmenting the desktop
interface and bi-manual interaction and
If a person uses only a word processor
or basic accounting spread sheets much
of the above will seem unnecessary. With
keyboard and mouse input, these basic
activities are well suited to 2-D display.
However, with the advent of high-power
processors computers can now do far more
than produce letters and reports. One
powerful example is that of a surgeon
using computer aided imaging. They need
(really need!) to know exactly where their
scalpel or other invasive instruments
are in 3-D space. Present 3-D simulations,
the authors argue, lag far behind the
accuracy and confidence a surgeon can
have when using true 3-D imaging. Early
medical displays presented a flat section
of the patients brain to the surgeon
who had to make educated guesses as to
just how deep the various capillaries,
nerve fibres and so on were. The authors
want new interfaces to, "
tasks that are inherently 3-D in nature
to be carried out within a 3-D design
space" (p. 23).
The authors, to lighten up the highly
technical nature of the book, have used
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
as a metaphor for the journey through
their investigation; the quotes from the
various verses give the book a "good feel".
This poem was written by Samuel Taylor
Coleridge with a caution to the reader
concerning "a willing suspension of disbelief".
It is this visual disbelief and illusion
that is of prime concern in designing
effective 3-D visual computer interfaces.
As an aside, I always thought it was Shakespeare
who first came up with "the suspension
of disbelief" but, alas, it was Coleridge
writing to Wordsworth! Unfortunately,
in addition to the Ancient Mariner
quotes, there is also too many other quotes
from various sources in section headings
which become a bit tedious after a while.
Blundell and Schwarz have produced a body
of research, jam packed into this book
that will surely become a standard text
for all interested in this important and
pressing area of 3-D interaction interface
design. This includes not only hardware
system engineers, but also software designers,
artists, architects, medical practitioners,
and entertainment gurus who specialise
in creating a "willing suspension of disbelief".
Whilst the authors may not be the first
to work in this area they have certainly
created a pioneering work in an area that
has been fairly silent.
"The fair breeze blew, the white foam
The furrow followed free;
We were the first that ever burst
Into that silent sea." (p. 319)