Spatial Software Review

This is a review of the blog post “Spatial Software” written by John Palmer for 1729.

tl;dr

Spatial software is great for social use cases and the pandemic will definitely accelerate its adoption. However, there might be some limitations to its use such as hardware and finding the right product-market fit

Article Summary

  1. Due to COVID, the trend towards spatial interfaces is accelerating
  2. Social applications will be the first to adopt spatial interfaces
  3. Spatial software is given by the ability to move bodies and objects freely which is in parallel to the real world
  4. Designers and developers will begin using spatial interfaces in non-traditional ways, taking design patterns from gaming and applying them to non-competitive, explicitly social use-cases.

Article’s perspective

The idea of spatial awareness built into software is currently important to overcoming the social isolation many people are facing due to the pandemic.

A whole wave of spatial social applications will be born out of this time, and these applications will serve as the breeding ground for insights that make their way out of social and into other major verticals. This will be an extremely generative time for insights and innovation in the way we build software. Designers and developers will begin using spatial interfaces in non-traditional ways, taking design patterns from gaming and applying them to non-competitive, explicitly social use-cases.

People are used to living in a 3D world (that’s just how reality is built) and confining us to a completely 2D world is stifling. It is possible to build immersive 3D worlds already and applying this to our day-to-day lives, not just in games might be a great way to improve social interactions.

3D can also give users context, depth, and improve overall perception. I suppose this helps build up a ‘mental palace’ of what is actually happening on a 2D space and helps people keep track of what they are doing.

This is especially true for applications such as Figma where designers need to keep track of what they are doing across several layers.

Constructive Critiques

  • there are certainly hardware limitations to rendering 3D worlds on-demand. not all computers will be able to handle a 3D world making it impractical for mass use
  • sometimes people just want to get things done, gather.town is great for company townhalls and get togethers but would be horrible for non-social events
  • despite the call that 3D worlds can transcend gaming and move into day-to-day applications, most of the examples given are games. I wouldn’t count figma as a social interaction tool and the 3D-ness of figma is limited to its layers
  • I think having shared 3D assets will greatly accelerate the adoption of spatial software. Sketchfab is a great place for this.

I would suggest a framework for deciding whether something should move to 2D or 3D.

Firstly, hardware requirements are the ultimate limitation. Having a 3D world that doesn’t run is akin to having no world at all.

Secondly, evaluating the features that are necessary to the interaction. There are a lot of ‘good-to-have’ features that might not necessarily improve social interaction. Mini-games and team-building games would do better if people could move around in a carnival like manner rather than 2D dashboards.

Thirdly, interaction dynamics should require social interaction rather than having it as an afterthought. We are not limited to only meetups and conferences but there are also paid workshops and facilitated sessions that could definitely benefit from a 3D interface rather than having everyone stare at a Miro board for 3 hours.

Conclusion

Spatial software is definitely finding its product-market fit. Despite some obvious physical (hardware) limitations to its adoption, humanity as a collective is craving better ways to interact online and 3D interfaces might just be the answer to some of them.

ever curious