At the start of 2011 Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer revealed the company’s ambition to take Windows’ ubiquity beyond the desktop.

“Whatever device you use, now or in the future, Windows will be there,” the CEO said at CES 2011 in January.
But of course, Microsoft’s Windows everywhere strategy goes beyond devices.                                 least devices that customers can associate with traditional form factors.
The software giant, but also other technology companies have been exploring scenarios in which an entire room can be the computing environment.

Having introduced System on a Chip (SoC) architecture support in Windows vNext, it’s obvious that Windows 8 will be on the launch pad designed to take Windows everywhere.

But having entire rooms or even homes transformed into computers will require a complete overhaul of today’s graphical user interfaces.

Three-dimensional GUIs combined with the power of natural user interfaces (NUIs) could provide an answer to how users will be able to “get around” 3D spatial computing environments.

The Redmond company is already developing a 3D UI for Windows 8, but it appears that the work is connected to 3D monitors more than anything else.

Still, the software giant is also exploring 3D UIs beyond the next iteration of the Windows operating system.

Microsoft was granted a new patent recently for a project involving a “method and apparatus for providing a three-dimensional task gallery computer interface.”

“The present invention provides a three-dimensional user interface for a computer system that allows a user to combine and store a group of windows as a task,” reads an excerpt of the patent’s description.

“The image of each task can be positioned within a three-dimensional environment such that the user may utilize spatial memory in order remember where a particular task is located. In further embodiments of the invention, the three-dimensional environment includes a stage, which is used to display the task with the current focus.

 “When a user selects a new task in the gallery, the task is moved to the stage and given focus. If a previous task was on the stage, an image of the previous task is captured. This image is then moved into the task gallery away from the stage. This process allows users to switch between multiple window configurations with a simple action.”

The users could leverage all three-dimensional spaces, including floors, side and front walls and ceilings in order to interact with the computing environment. This would not be possible without an NUI. Fortunately enough, devices such as Kinect already reveal how human computer interaction models can go beyond traditional input mechanisms.

As far-fetched as concepts such as 3D spatial UIs and room computing environments might sound at the present, I’m willing to bet that we’re going to see them happen within this decade. Perhaps not with Windows 8, but maybe with Windows 9.

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