Three of the world's software companies went organic last week when they revealed plans for a more natural way of interfacing with the Internet.
Xerox, BT and IBM turned to multimedia mechanisms that make surfing the Net easier - relying on 3D visuals, biological reasoning and natural voice, respectively.
Xerox is working on a spin-off from its long-term graphical user interface programme, which originally helped to spawn Windows. The latest development is a set of 3D interfaces that display results of a Web search - or other large chunks of complex information - as data objects, which are then visually interrelated on-screen to make the search results simpler to understand.
The interface components are called Viz Controls and can organise objects in various ways. For example, the Perspective Wall Control, shows relationships between documents on a wall, measured across time and another dimension such as geography. Another, Web Forager, displays information within electronic books and rooms.
Web search engine makers such as Infoseek are said to be incorporating Viz Controls in their products and decision support vendors are also a potential market, with Comshare already a licensee.
BT's latest Internet innovation is a screening system for filtering out unwanted sites. Such filters - used by corporations and individuals to block access to sites that are deemed obscene or time-wasting - currently rely on keywords to identify the type of site. BT's version uses biological reasoning software to categorise sites and then displays them on screen as different shoals of fish.
Meanwhile, IBM's Voicetype Connection for Netscape Navigator lets users surf the Net with their voice. The company claims this is the world's first accurate, speech-enabled Web browser.
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