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Self-Describing Animated Icons for Human-Computer Interaction

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000102695D
Original Publication Date: 1990-Dec-01
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Mar-17
Document File: 3 page(s) / 130K

Publishing Venue

IBM

Related People

Alpert, S: AUTHOR

Abstract

Iconic interfaces to computer applications have become quite commonplace. Icons provide visual, often pictorial, images which may be employed to represent to the application user an underlying computational object (e.g., a file), action (e.g., cut text), or mode (e.g., free- hand drawing mode in a graphics editor). The user communicates with the application by selecting icons via a mouse pointing device (by placing the mouse cursor over an icon and clicking a mouse button); this stands in opposition to, for example, command interfaces wherein the user invokes computational behavior by entering a textual command.

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Self-Describing Animated Icons for Human-Computer Interaction

       Iconic interfaces to computer applications have become
quite commonplace. Icons provide visual, often pictorial, images
which may be employed to represent to the application user an
underlying computational object (e.g., a file), action (e.g., cut
text), or mode (e.g., free- hand drawing mode in a graphics editor).
The user communicates with the application by selecting icons via a
mouse pointing device (by placing the mouse cursor over an icon and
clicking a mouse button); this stands in opposition to, for example,
command interfaces wherein the user invokes computational behavior by
entering a textual command.

      The overwhelming majority of iconic interfaces employ static
icons, that is, icons whose image does not change over time. With
static icons, a commonly used mapping of icon image to system
referent is physical analogy [1], for example, an image of scissors
to refer to the system action 'cut'.  Here an object is depicted, but
the semantics of the icon relate to a system action.  A more direct
mapping to a system action is an icon with an animated action, for
example, a scissor cutting through a piece of paper, or better yet,
an animation that appears much like (a miniaturized version of) the
actual system action, such as a portion of text being deleted from a
textual document. Icons with the most direct mapping to system
referent are more easily comprehended [2]; therefore, animated icons
have the potential of more clearly and directly conveying their
meaning and use to the system user than do the static icons primarily
in use at this time.

      Nonetheless, problems remain and further problems are
introduced by the use of animation. The animated icons presented in
this disclosure attempt to address two of these problems and are
unique in those regards.

      First, while animation is useful for conveying the semantics of
the icons, the constant motion of the animations can be distracting
and grow tedious for many users. The icons presented here remedy this
problem by placing animation under user control.  Although these
icons continuously animate by default, the user can switch
continuous-animation mode on or off via a simple pop-up menu
associated with the window in which the icons appear (see Figure 1).

      A second challenge relates to the ease of learning and ease of
use of iconic interfaces in general. There are those who consider
icons to be too vague and imprecise to be of real value [1]. As we've
seen, animation may offer some relief in this regard. Nonetheless, as
pointed out in [3], an icon's functionality must still be learned by
the user just as the meaning of commands in a command interface must.
Even after...