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The Ergonomics Of Panoramic Interactions


Apple under the ShowerGoogle StreetView has contributed immensly to the popularity of virtual reality (VR). Kudos to them. They keep adding smart and complex navigation improvements. When will they realize that the single most effective and easy to implement improvement to StreetView’s navigation would be to invert the movement of the mouse? To the vast majority of humans it is more intuitive to move the mouse to the point of interest. With StreetView today it is the other way around: to look up you have to drag the mouse down and to look right you have to drag it to the left. In the past decade Apple understood the ergonomics very well and established the best practice with QuickTimeVR, the ancestor technology underlying VR interaction. The vast majority of panorama viewers use this intuitive way of navigating the panorama. Why not StreetView?

8 Responses

  1. As far as I’m concerned, the behaviour of Google Street View is the more intuitive when using a mouse or a touch screen (or any pointing device). Think about how weird what you suggest would feel on something like an iPhone, where you are using your finger to move the picture around. With a mouse it’s similar, and their behaviour is also consistent with the way Google Maps works.

    I think what you describe would be more intuitive when using a joystick.

  2. Just want to say that I agree with the comment above. We all use a mouse everyday to drag things on the screen: mouse to the right, whatever you are dragging (be it a window, a scrollbar, a picture or whatever) goes to the right. We do *not* use the mouse to drag our own noses!

    I think that Google StreetView is the only VR viewer with intuitive mouse interaction.

  3. The issue here is which metaphor is adopted:

    1) The user is moving the map/image under a fixed window
    2) The user is moving the window over a fixed map/image

    Yuval is arguing for the second while Alexandre and Edgar like the first. Which is more intuitive is a very personal issue, and as far as I know, there is no conclusive research in HCI as to which the majority of people prefer in general. Perhaps for certain applications, there’s a clear bias (e.g., scrollbars associated with a window rather than the content directly), but I’m not sure it’s so obvious with VR.

  4. For a touch-screen the streetview way would clearly be right.

    For first-person games the QuickTime direction is how it needs to work, but in this case the behaviour is slightly different – The mouse always moves the scene even if not clicked, but it only pans while the mouse is moving – It would be interesting to see a pano-viewer that worked like this.

  5. David said it pretty clearly.

    Google Earth is an app that implements both models seamlessly.

    When you use your mouse to “touch” the image, it is completely intuitive to drag the image. You’re obviously not moving a window over the image, you are moving the image.

    When you use your mouse to adjust one of the joystick / wheel controls, then you are moving the window. And that is intuitive as well.

    In that sense, Google Earth is a very nice pano-viewer (and btw it supports pano viewing through panoramio, etc…)

  6. I think David is right on the point with his analysis. The mouse can be used for more than one metaphore: Photoshop transforms the cursor into a hand and the GIMP adds a cross with directional arrows when switching to the metaphore of dragging. The metaphore of pointing is the default one for mouse interaction and I think that the natural behavior for a VR-panorama is the one of a first-person game. 24 hours into a survey of VR experts and enthusiasts, the result is about 80%-20%.

  7. continued.

  8. Forget the mouse, think real life…

    As much as some people like to argue, StreetView┬┤s navigation IS counter-intuitive. If you are walking down the street and hear a sudden noise approaching you, do you turn to look TOWARD the source or AWAY?

    Let me put another more graphical and more “to the point” example. You have a gun; you have a target; in order to hit the target, do you actually point the gun AWAY from the target. If your answer to that was yes, please stay very far away from me ;)

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