Thursday, March 30, 2006

Dreaded Menus Tell No Tales

Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application (20060066755) from Canon. I don't really see the novelty in the application, but that's usually the case these days. All Canon did was take the concept of a pie menu and apply it to an Electronic Program Guide (EPG) to display TV program info. Here's Figure 8 from the patent app:

That seems like it's obvious for someone skilled in the art. Imagine that you're an engineer and you're told to design a user interface for viewing TV program info via an interactive menu. You pull out your list of menu designs that people have used before. A linear menu is at the top of the list and (gasp!) a pie menu is right below it. I just love the fact that Canon did not use the words, pie menu, anywhere in their application. They prefer to call it an ellipse.

I also don't think that it's well-suited for viewing program info. Sure you can see more channels on the screen at a time, as compared to linear menus, but can you really read the program titles near the center of the circle? And how do you switch from one pie to another? You definitely can't show all channels at once. Can you imagine 500 skinny wedges on the screen?

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