As interaction designers at Autodesk, we sometimes engage in design and thought investigations that are not directly related to the task at hand. These investigations are ways to frame problems by venturing into related design disciplines. For example, in order to understand what might be an appropriate transition when changing views in a 3d model, we try to understand how a video artist would create a transition between two scenes in a video. To understand how to improve the graphic quality of elements drawn in a building information model, we look at lots of pencil sketches drawn by architects. We think, what would happen if an on-screen element was made from physical material? How can we further improve the interaction with that element? In addition to thinking about design problems in a different way, at times we go a step further: we make a short movie to understand how a video artist would approach scene transitions, or we make a physical representation of an on screen control.
One such example is the Tangible View Cube, a small, wireless handheld device used for controlling the orientation of an on-screen 3D model. The Tangible View Cube is a physical representation of the ViewCube® available in many Autodesk applications. The interaction with the cube does not require a user to be a product expert to change the orientation of the on-screen 3D model. The cube has a single button on the top: one click unlocks the sensor inside the cube and the user can change the orientation of the 3D model. Click again to lock the orientation, and pass the tangible device to another person to share. You can see the Tangible View Cube at work in this video:
This was a small and well-focused project that did not require many resources to make. While the investigation was not an end in itself, it was a “kick in the side of the head,” that helped us to unblock our thoughts. By temporarily removing ourselves from the problem, we were able to understand interaction with an on-screen control from a different perspective.