P H I L A D E L P H I A, March 5

New Browser Shows Web in 3-D


An architect and virtual reality designer's outside-the-box idea for a Web browser turned out looking like the inside of a box.

The user-friendly concept of the inside of a room actually is how Mike Rosen, chief executive officer of 2ce Inc., envisions his method of displaying six or more Web pages while being able to instantly interact with any of them. Instead of opening and minimizing separate browser windows, 2ce's CubicEye browser shows the pages as if they were on the inside walls of a cube. A user can flip the cube to work on any page. Pages on the walls, ceiling and floor of the cube are not fully legible, but they are live and the user can see changes and click on prominent features. The page directly in front can zoom to full-screen size for detailed or extended work. "A lot of information comes at you at once, and what we did was we came up with an organizational structure that allows you to take the information overload and organize it in a way that people can relate to it in a very simplistic fashion," Rosen said.

The Internet Browser Game

Just as Internet browsing previously transformed from dealing with on-screen text to organizing information in pages or windows, Rosen envisions his browser as a transition to a gaming- or virtual-reality-oriented three-dimensional approach to the Web, though some experts question whether users want such an evolutionary step. "It may be a misapplied metaphor, the idea that because people are familiar with a room they will be comfortable with getting information off the walls, ceiling and floor," said Paul Sonderegger, an analyst for Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass. Rosen called the cube "a simple shape that people are comfortable with. If I told you look, you're in a room, and the room has a floor, ceiling and four walls ... you get that. You understand that without me having to teach you too much about your environment." Users gain versatility because they no longer have to navigate from page to page in a linear fashion, Rosen said, taking the CubicEye for a spin on his office computer to show how he could flips from screen to screen without retracing his path. "Now I'm rotating between six sites. And I can go vertically," he said. "So I'm reading six newspapers at one time. And I'm interacting with all these newspapers. And when I want to read it real carefully I'm just going to zoom in all the way and read it like a regular browser." Users can save cubes for regular use, arraying shopping sites to find the best deal on a desired item, combining news pages in an information cube, or displaying several financial sites for quick comparison. "Literally this could be set up as a mall, too. Each one of these pages could be a different store. Or you can be chatting with three people and browsing the Internet on the other screens," Rosen said. People who don't want to read six newspapers may be more interested in a future capability Rosen envisions by tying the technology in with cable television: Watching five games at once. "The second thing we are doing is developing software-developer toolkits so that Web developers will be able to create content. They'll come up with applications that I couldn't even dream of, for their own purposes," Rosen said. "For example, think of a stock analyst, they'll want a ticker to wrap around the walls of this thing."

Analyst: Worryingly Complex

Chris Le Tocq, an analyst with the Gartner Group in Stamford, Conn., said many users may balk at manipulating cubes, however. Computers need to get simpler to use, not more complicated, and even with current browsers "there is too much knowledge assumed by the designers," Le Tocq said. "We've got a long, long way to go to get a user interface right. Both Microsoft and Apple could be doing a lot more work than they are." Stock traders, for example, can get the information they need without learning to manipulate a new browser, Le Tocq said. "They have multiple LCD screens and they are perfectly readable," he said. "If this is really important to you, you can easily invest in the hardware to make it work. If it is not so important that you would pay for the hardware I am not sure you would tolerate the strangeness of the display." Rosen said visitors to 2ce's Web site already have been downloading up to one copy a minute of a test version of CubicEye, however. He said some analysts and reporters viewed a demonstration version at the November Comdex show in Las Vegas. He plans a public unveiling at the March 12-16 Internet World conference in Los Angeles.

News - New Browser Shows Web in 3-D

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