No, this isn't a blog about physics, math and all that good stuff, but I want to take a moment and talk about the plane we normally don't use in our day-to-work: the z-axis. Why? Well... as I've said before, I'm a dork and I love math! No really, stay with me here — this definitely applies to design and using your creative side.

I remember getting introduced to the z axis as a kid when my dad told me to look up in the corner of a room where walls meet, and you see the x, y, and z axes coming out. What a great visual — try it, you'll see!

Z-Axis in the Web World

We don't explore this dimension much at work, but there are websites that use this to give an "exploration" feel. I have seen this used for portfolios quite a bit — check out Whitevoid and Diller Scofidio + Renfro. As you explore the portfolio note how things are stacked and perspectives shift. I haven't found an enterprise application of this yet, but I know it's out there (let me know in the comments please!)

Z-Axis and Gestures

I'm really into exploring gestural interfaces lately, which are definitely not new (I worked in a VR lab back in '02!), but this type of interaction is getting a lot of hype these days. Hardware is starting to support z-axis gestures now too — check out the Mitsubishi's 3D touch panel. The screen not only senses where your finger is in 2D space, but uses the plane coming out of the screen (i.e. the z-axis) to do things such as change the shape of an object as you get closer, and change the pointer based on proximity vs. contact. There are so many exciting applications for this such as: scale the size of data based on where someone is standing (especially useful for big screens), use proximity to zoom in / out if you're navigating a space, detect how fast someone is moving to change the speed of the application, match the application to someone's height, size of finger, etc.

I'm excited about this area, and helps me frame my thinking in the traditional 2D world too. What ideas do other people have? Would love to hear about them in the comments!

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