FEATURES & COMMENTARY
College Park, MD. — July 4th marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of jazz great Louis Armstrong, but this year a new kind of jazz will strike a chord with internet designers when a new Java “Zooming” (Jazz for short) interface lands on their desktops.
On July 4th the University of Maryland and an Open Source community called “The Jazz Band” released version 1.0 of a new “Zooming User Interface” called Jazz http://www.cs.umd.edu/hcil/jazz/ . This user-interface technology, developed over the last six years, is now creating new opportunities for the most information intensive companies and applications to gain wider acceptance. The Jazz interface, developed by Ben Bederson http://www.cs.umd.edu/~bederson/ , director of the Human Computer Interaction Laboratory http://www.cs.umd.edu/projects/hcil/index.html at Maryland, offers application designers a robust platform for interaction with large information spaces. Users and developers of all types are invited to download version 1.0 of this software from the Jazz homepage at http://www.cs.umd.edu/hcil/jazz .
In the old days, the biggest computer companies sold hardware that feasted on data – the more “big iron” mainframes, the better. Today, some of the biggest software companies sell applications that feast on information – the more the better. But old-fashioned user interfaces have limited how many people have the expertise and the patience to interact with “big information.” New interfaces like Jazz escape from the 30-year-old WIMP straitjacket, moving intuitive visual interaction beyond Windows, Icons, Menus, and Pointing.
The “Jazz” platform is a Java-based zooming user interface (ZUI) development toolkit. Applications implemented in Jazz can easily zoom, pan, and transform graphical and text objects organized into a scenegraph of hierarchical cameras, nodes and objects. The views offer smooth, animated transitions throughout an infinite plane of information. With Jazz’s close integration with Java and Swing, all Jazz applications are platform independent and run in any browser with a Java 2 Run-time Engine (JRE). The Jazz platform is extremely flexible, with full availability of the open source code and a stable, well-documented scenegraph.
Information intensive applications such as data mining or CAD (computer-aided design), can use “Jazzy” viewers to let end-users explore their deep information spaces. Web-based applications such as network management or B2B marketplaces can provide seamless drill-down and navigation across many categories of data.
In the future, Bederson says the Jazz Band also expects to see Jazz being used to rescue users from information overload, even where applications don’t yet exist. For example, applications built on top of Jazz could maintain your surfing trail on the Web so you can find your way back; could organize your email and documents; and could help you find what you need through e-commerce storefronts or search engines.
Jazz has also been engineered as an interface “platform” that existing applications can build upon, and is as agnostic about operating systems as its parent language, Java. Sun Microsystems ( http://www.sun.com/ ) has actively supported the development of version 1.0, providing early access to new Java releases and implementing code changes to improve Java performance in ways particularly important to Jazz.
Widespread adoption of zooming interfaces could be particularly swift because Jazz is being distributed as open source code. The Open Source revolution has been sweeping the software world in the last few years, most dramatically in the rise of the Linux operating system and the companies now being built around it, such as Red Hat http://www.redhat.com/ . Bringing the open source approach closer to the user than ever before, Jazz is actively recruiting coders, users, and evangelists. Anyone can download the current release and become “Jazz Jammers” to contribute code and debugging and “session cats” to lead sections of the development effort. GUI builders, application designers, webmasters, and computer graphics gurus are expected to be the primary members of the Jazz Band.
Even in early pre-release form, Jazz has already attracted attention from software companies, ranging from the most innovative start-ups, to fast-growing media companies preparing for IPOs, to the largest players in the industry. The pre-release package has been downloaded for use at leading corporations, start-ups, universities, and research labs around the world, including Xerox PARC, IBM Almaden, Lucent Bell Labs, SGI, the National Security Agency, DARPA, Lockheed Martin, UC Berkeley, NYU, Cornell Unviversity, Prudential, Capital One, Ingenix, Cadence Design, Motive Communications, eMotion, and hundreds more.
For more information, see the Jazz home page at http://www.cs.umd.edu/hcil/jazz . For background information on the Human Computer Interaction Lab and user interface technology, see http://www.cs.umd.edu/hcil .