What’s a more powerful organizational tool: your bedroom or your operating system?
Visualize your bedroom for a minute. Between your socks, books, and art, it probably contains hundreds of items (or if you’re my friend Jared, closer to thousands). If I ask you where to find one item (say your running shoes), chances are you can tell me on the spot.
Now let’s look at your operating system (e.g. Windows or Mac OS). Say I give you 100 word documents to place in folders throughout your operating system, and then ask you where a specific file is located. Chances are it might take you a bit longer to recall. Ask you a month later and, if you’re anything like me, you’ll need to fire up the search function to find the file.
So why is it easier for us to recall where things are stored in a bedroom versus an operating system?
It has something to do with the way our mind works.
Our minds are incredibly adept at remembering where things are located in the tangible “space” around us. And for good reason. It is this “spatial memory” that we’ve trained over millions of years to remember critical things such as where our tribe is located, or that we tap into today to remember where we’ve stored our shoes.
When it comes to locating a file on a operating system, however, our minds are less adept. Remembering where files are stored in digital folders has never been a survival skill (and may that never change!). Simply put: our minds have never been trained to think this way.
As we move an increasing amount of data into our operating systems, developing an easy way for our mind to remember where files are located has become increasingly valuable. That said, companies such as Microsoft and Apple continue to make life tricky for us by pushing out operating systems built around our minds remembering unfamiliar folder hierarchies. Why not take a different approach, and present data in a way that takes advantage of millions of years of human evolution?
BumpTop is the bedroom of user interfaces. BumpTop takes all of your digital files and throws them into a virtual room. It is then your task to organize these files however you want in this space. Throw your photos.jpg on your wall, your diary.doc on your nightstand, and your movies.avi on the TV stand. Once you’ve organized your files (or “moved in” to your room), retrieving a photo is as simple as walking over to the wall on which you hung it. Some would say it’s natural.
My prediction is that technologies such as BumpTop, that tap into our spatial awareness, will continue to find success as they make life easier for existing consumers, and lower the learning curve for new consumers (e.g. first-time computer users). So what does this more intuitive future look like? Here’s a start: marry Bumptop to the MIT MediaLab’s Sixth Sense, where users select files by just waving their hands, and finding a file may become as easy as walking over to a digital desk and waving your hand in their air.
And finding a word document will be as natural as finding (or losing) a pair of shoes.
BumpTop in action: