Polishing iChat

Published 20 years, 3 weeks past

In between fighting with paperwork and other annoyances, I took the same promotional iChat image I used in yesterday’s post (and which I originally pulled from the Tiger iChat page) and faked a series of textured tabletops beneath the video chat windows.  They’re rough approximations of what I think could be done, put together with some texture images I had lying around and off-the-cuff fiddling in Photoshop.  In case you’re wondering, the four textures are “stone” (an indeterminate speckled gray), wood, marble, and what I call “sea foam”.  I didn’t do a water distortion version mostly because I was spending less than an hour on the attempt, and I didn’t feel like trying to recreate the whole scene in a 3D modeling environment just to get the right reflections.

So now you can see it just the way it looked to me when I imagined it.  Well, not precisely, but really close.

As for the idea of having documents show up in that workspace, they could be in-perspective sheets of paper lying on the surface, with a thumbnail preview of the contents visible on the sheet, or they could be little icons floating in space above the tabletop (or else sitting on it).  Either one would work fine for me.  The “sheet of paper” idea extends the visual metaphor Apple’s clearly pursued, but it could also quickly chew up the space available to either side of the little “me” preview window.  Little floating icons (or boxes, whatever) would be more compact, while still participating in the metaphorical space.

Now, if the application let you warp or otherwise texturize the chat windows themselves, then we’d be off to the races.  Imagine putting Etch-A-Sketch frames around the windows—and imagine running a filter that made each frame look like it had been drawn on the Etch-A-Sketch!  Killer.  For that matter, you could turn each chat window into a Gameboy Advance, and run a pixelizing filter on the streams.

Like I said before, if you’re going to have gratuitous eye candy, you may as well go for the gusto.

Comments (10)

  1. It’s surprising to see how good Apple’s user interfaces are getting. They sure have come a really long way in both looks and usability, and improved their metaphors since those days of having to drag a floppy to the trash to eject it. I’m a windows user myself; I’ve been crashing it since about windows 3.1, though I never really liked mac’s in the past because their user interface made them harder to learn and use, but now it looks like I can’t really complain about them all that much; except for a few minor things, but that’s mostly cause I’m so used to windows.

    As for the eye candy, it would be better if they could improve the 3D look of the video images. Rather than just skewing a flat video image, it’d be nice if it supported setting up 3D cameras, so the image could be rotated in 3D space; Also, the ability to drop out the backgrounds behind the people, and replace it so it looked like they were all in the same room would be cool. Then, for those who were really keen, they could set up a 3D projector, whack on some polarized, 3D glasses and view the whole thing in life-size 3D videos… Even though the bandwidth, processor power and equipment costs would probably be more than anyone could afford, or be willing to spend right now, there’s not harm in dreaming is there…

  2. Well the real problem is screen space. With the table – or without it – there is no really good way to have a video chat with more than a few people before you either run out of real estate, or the talking heads get way small.

    But with these new fancy screens…

    In all seriousness, though, even with all of these cool featues iChat AV already has (forgetting the new ones we’re dreaming about), in a world populated mostly by Windows users running AIM, who would you really use these features with in the real world? It’d be one thing if everyone used Macs and had cameras, but unfortunately that’s not the case.


  3. > in a world populated mostly by Windows users running AIM

    It seems that in my part of the world (the Netherlands) everyone has this fascination with MSN. So it’s not as simple as one against the other. There’s lots more IM/Chat whatchamacallit apps people are using.

  4. Trackback ::


    The week flew by…
    Wow. I’ve been out of it for about a week, sleeping a lot and trying to stay far from the computer when not working.

    Now that I’m back to what I’ve come to know as civilization, there’s so much much to talk about.

    First up, Apple officially d…

  5. I don’t think that having documents displayed in perspective on the table top would necessarily quickly chew up the space around the preview window. Just like at a real table, once everyone takes (downloads) a copy of the file, there wouldn’t be any more of them sitting on the table – the rendered document would just disappear. This would alleviate the problem of the table getting crowded, and give the person “passing out” the file visual confirmation that everyone has downloaded the file.

    That’s great for one file, but what happens when someone tries to distribute 20 files at the same time? Easy. iChat just takes advantage of OS X’s “Archive Files and Folders” feature to zip them up before sending.

    Will this happen? Probably not. But that’s one less hurdle between here and there…

  6. Superb faked images there Eric. But I’m not overkeen on the original Apple layout here. To me the skewed images look wrong. I’d imagine the people shown would much prefer to be viewed head-on. Why can’t we have a picture of a 3D table with the heads all facing us, just like in a real room? As it is, it looks like 3 photos without frames stood on a shiny surface, which might as well be a piano.

    However, I’m impressed by the way Apple are going. If each user shown also takes on an avatar, then it would be like the virtual 3D meetings in William Gibson’s Idoru. There, the characters choose to style their fake appearances with effects, such as photographs mapped onto their clothing, or low-res animation in the fabric.

    As for spinning the photographs or processing them in a 3D way, this is what Microsoft previewed a while back in a Longhorn demo. They had a group of windows spinning 360 degrees in real-time! One I think was showing a video of Star Wars with no loss of frames. Longhorn’s whole idea is to draw the operating system using the graphics card, hence 3D effects such as page turns are no sweat. The company has also talked about creating a 3D desktop, which will probably look similar to the iChat pictures here. Whether 3D computing becomes a practical tool, or just another gimmick, remains to be seen.

  7. I think that the web cam images are presented like that because:

    1. It would be quite intimidating to have 2 or 3 people all facing you at the same time, watching your every move. When we sit behind a computer it’s our “personal” area, so having the other web cams slightly skewed is a bit less “intrusive”.

    2. It gives the feel of space. If all those web cam images were facing forwards, it would appear like there was less room and like it was cluttered.

    As for who we’d use it with: Mostly other design geeks probably :) and conferences with design agencies or those working in an internet related company. Most people who work with the web seem to have macs these days, from what i’ve seen.

  8. Eric, the implementation of shared documents in iChatAV would be awesome! I often use iChatAV to collaborate with people across the continent, working on presentations, software builds, whatever. The ability to easily share docs would be incredibly helpful.Sure, we can have SubEthaEdit open and work on stuff that way, but it would be smoother if it was integrated.

    I’ve made a very crude mockup of what that might look like. I’m sure it could be done much more elegantly, but I’d even settle for what’s mocked up.

  9. Back in the OS 9 days there was a company that could on-the-fly turn process any quicktime movie so that it looked hand-drawn…. then there was the famous quicktime->ascii hack. It would be very cool to see this kind of thing available as an ichat extension.

  10. Trackback ::

    Finance-Guru Blog

    ICHAT gets married to a Jaguar!
    This great post, courtesy of Eric Meyer and MeyerWeb.Com , gives some ideas about polishing up ICHAT, and where it could go as it moves into the future:

Add Your Thoughts

Meyerweb dot com reserves the right to edit or remove any comment, especially when abusive or irrelevant to the topic at hand.

HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strong> <pre class=""> <kbd>

if you’re satisfied with it.

Comment Preview