Ted: BumpTop

Posted by Scott

I remember seeing the BumpTop desktop concept making the rounds a while back but today I came across a bit more interesting version. In it, BumpTop creator Anand Agarawala walks us through the interface and it’s various features during his presentation at the 2007 TED conference. The concept is obviously in it’s early stages and while this demonstration seems to highlight some of the more frivolous features of the interface, I think a lot of the ideas could be very useful in a future OS. My favorite part is when he dares to insult the sacred cow of OS X, pointing out that it’s essentially a more “lick-able” version of the “same old crap we’ve had for years” (i.e. Windows). You gotta love the audience reactions. Video Link

Note: Since this video is now almost 2 years old, a multi-touch interface is notably absent from his presentation. In the time since the original video Agarawala has updated and has a nice multi-touch BumpTop demonstration here.

9 Comments Leave A Comment


Steve says:

January 12, 2009 at 2:56 am

interesting concept. i like it. i wish he would have shown how folders and documents were opened in his demo.


Danny says:

January 12, 2009 at 3:48 am

I know Anand personally, he’s a nice guy.

lol @ “the same old crap we’ve had for years”. brace yourself for Windows 7, Scott!


Kristian says:

January 12, 2009 at 4:57 am

Sure, it flows and is more visually stimulating than the current desktops today.

Is this really going to help productivity? The video posted appeared to every cluttered, not very easy to find your your work once you’ve throw it into a massive pile after photoshop has just crashed.

Will BumpTop feed on my computers resources? at the end of the day a nice fluid, light-weight OS is at the top of my priorities. This appears more as a gimmick than a serious working environment.

Certainly cool, but at present this is not for me.


Bas says:

January 12, 2009 at 3:28 pm

It has some very interesting things, mainly the scaling of icons to resemble the importance is really useful imho. But it also has many cons, imho. Mainly: It’s not transparent.


Albert P. says:

January 12, 2009 at 11:05 pm

Visceral, but inherently limited

It’s intriguing and virtual physicality is visceral. It has a even higher visual correlation to a physical space we are familiar with. However, as much as you gain by the linking more closely to the physical, I believe it actually creates a lower and harder ceiling on the potential benefits of the concept.

The problem with reality is that a single object can only be in one place at one time. If you are very good at organizing yourself and are good at planning to organize yourself in the future, then this may not be a barrier. But for most people, as we learn new things, we either force the new ideas into the existing organization or we start branching off and creating new sections. Think of someone who has kept all the paper statements, receipts letters, brochures, books and any kind of paper for any length of time. For the short term, it’s pretty easy to spend time assessing once and organizing. But for any length of time — think a few years — it breaks down unless you stop, reassess and reorganize. We generally have a hard time planning for things that we don’t know.

The nature of digital information is that it doesn’t have the limitation to be in once place at time. Imagine an information space like the Internet. Imagine that you had to understand how the entire Internet is organized to be able to store and retrieve information. In the beginning, you might create a static directory — think Yahoo! circa 1996. That would work for awhile until people started adding whole new classes of information that you didn’t plan for. You can add new sections and add reference links and probably go on for a bit more. But the longer the information set grows, the more information is in the system, the more compromises you make, the harder it is to keep jamming stuff into the same organization. At some point, you need a new way to figure out what information means and how to retrieve it.

Enter Google search. Google does not try to present an organization or use any physical analog, it is merely a extremely recursive cataloger of information (how many meanings does a page have and what is it linked to?) and a really, really simple retriever. Give it a query and it dynamically creates a collection that matches it. It’s not a stack or pile or folder, it’s whatever you asked for presented in a prioritized collection of matching documents.

This dynamic, content-based, meaning-based approach is most likely the future of computer interfaces — not virtual physical spaces. These system have the ability to consume and collect untold, unpredictable amounts of data into an index without having a user work at maintaining it and then offering tools that can create collections on the fly, on demand, whenever the need arises. Of course, there are probably queries that repeated, so accommodations can be made for that. Of course there are just relatively special and small, ad hoc sets that just belong together, so users can define those also. But the magic is that the saved queries and the manual collections are no barrier to having that manually tagged information included into any dynamic collection. Of course, the queries don’t have to be text, they can be anything — faces of your friends or family, songs that have the same BPM. It’s limitless. The key element here is the hyper-reality of digital information. It’s way, way better at dealing with information (kinda like our brain). There is really no good reason to bring artificial barriers of physical space in the digital world.

It’s visceral. It may even be charming. But, it’s not the future.


Jonathan says:

January 13, 2009 at 8:29 am

I agree… Sure its cool, but its NOT the future. BumpTop is really just a “lickable” version of a “lickable” version of an OS.


frank says:

January 13, 2009 at 10:16 am

Albert P. hit the nail on the head. These types of tech demonstrations will go the way of the video phone pictured in Scott’s latest entry today.


Chris Stevens says:

April 6, 2009 at 12:01 pm

I just got an invite into the BumpTop beta, it’s pretty cool so far. It has intuitive features like making icons of files larger the more you use them. I could see it as an addition to some OSs.