Collapse-to-Zoom Could Aid Mobile Browsing

It’s the same old problem – a Web page is simply shrunk to fit a handheld screen and you waste time playing ‘blind man’s buff’ with the screen contents because you can’t tell the relevant from the irrelevant tiles.

Browsing large pictures, or simply navigating the Web on a mobile device is as unsatisfactory as trying to watch “The Return of the King” on a portable TV.

Opera have what they call Small-Screen Rendering technology to counter this but Patrick Baudisch and Xing Xie from Microsoft Research, Wei-Ying Ma from Microsoft Research Asia, and Chong Wang of Tsinghua University have provided a workaround to this limitation that will automate the scrolling and navigation of a large picture with a single pen stroke.

It’s called Collapse-to-zoom and offers an alternative exploration strategy. In addition to enabling users to zoom into relevant areas, Collapse-to-zoom allows users to collapse areas deemed irrelevant, such as archive material, or advertising.  When you collapse the irrelevant content all remaining material expands to display more detail, thus increasing your chance of finding what you want. Collapse-to-zoom navigation, explain the researchers, is based on a hybrid between a marquee selection tool and a marking menu, that they’re naming “marquee menu”.  There are four commands for collapsing content areas at different granularities and switching to a full-size view of what’s left on screen.

The system is controlled with pen gestures and are fully detailed in the Technology Review (linked below).  Dragging the pen diagonally downwards from right to left collapses all page content in the rectangular area covered by the pen, and replaces it with a thin placeholder that can be restored by clicking if required. Dragging the pen diagonally upwards from left to right zooms that area into a 100-percent-scale reading mode and collapses everything around the area.

Baudisch, Xie, Ma and Wang will present their work at the ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology (UIST 2004) next week.

Microsoft Collapse To Zoom paper (PDF)

Technology Review article

Opera for Mobiles