What's Hot in Visual Computing?

By Michael Flanakin @ 12:47 PM :: 1484 Views :: Technology :: Digg it!

I just got put on a project that has to do a proof of concept for what is essentially a search engine for users. Imagine, if you will, a people search that will pull together information from AIM, Yahoo! IM, Live Messenger, ICQ, the phone book, and who knows what else. As far as I see it, this specific project has three main concerns: (1) the data we have access to; (2) the data sources we can connect to; and, (3) the "Wow!" factor. The first two are the easy ones, in my opinion -- we've all been doing that for years. The last one's the kicker. What's behind the scenes is what's being proposed, but the person we're briefing to doesn't care about that part, they want to know what the user is going to see and how it will benefit them.

So, with (1) and (2) out of the way, I'm looking for a few wiz-bang ideas on the hottest of the hot user experience (UX) designs in the search arena. I want something that will make someone walking by the room do a double-, no, a triple-take. Not only that, I want something the customer will say, "I need that!" Not just, "I want something like that," but, "I need that!" We all know there's a line between wants and needs, but I want to play that as much as possible.

Now, the first thing that comes to mind when bleeding edge cool UX stuff comes up is Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF). Well, that's nice, but I really need an idea to spin off of. I keep bouncing back to some of the cool computer systems you see in movies that never really exist. Like, the ones that flip thru millions of photos or fingerprints when searching for someone. That's just not feasible, when you consider the amount of time it'd take to load the images, if they're even available. I do have to say I like that idea, tho. Another thought was a play off of their location, but I don't think that's going to be all that relevant for this search. It's more of a community-type search. For instance, using the IM example above, you might look for someone who has SharePoint or BizTalk experience, so you'll want to know their background and skill sets.

There are probably a thousand and one ideas out there, but I want something that will be big. I probably won't even come close, but it's exciting to have the chance to come up with something like this. I'm always a big fan of "what's next" in various areas; especially, when you have the chance to realize the seemingly impossible visual interfaces in the movies. Unfortunately, I have a 3 week deadline to have a final draft demo and another week to work out last minute fixes. That doesn't give me a whole lot of time to learn WPF, so I may not even go that route, but I'll definitely see how feasible it is. For now, the search is on. If anyone has any ideas, let me know! I'll definitely give props and try to feed as much back on the final product as I can.