Dazzle: The slippery eye

Tateru Nino
T. Nino|05.22.08

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Tateru Nino
May 22nd, 2008
Dazzle: The slippery eye

While there were many complaints that the new communication window in the Second Life viewer obscured and drew the eye away from the 3D scene which represented the virtual world and its contents, Dazzle seems to fix that particular sore point in unexpected ways.

Specifically, the eye is more sensitive to blue than to any other color, but capable of discerning less actual detail of blue things, particularly the brighter blues. For most of us, the eye tends to slide off and away from brighter blues and blues that are closer to gray and sliver.

We tried three people as a trial group using the Dazzle user-interface exclusively. The result was particularly interesting. The trial group we used were three users who found the Dazzle interface eye-watering, and hadn't given it a real tryout but who were willing to have a go in the name of empiricism.

Firstly, all three stopped grumbling about eye-watering after about 30 hours of use. The users found the colors of the body of the chat history window to be a little bit retro, but relatively easy on the eyes.

The most interesting result, however, was a studied avoidance of the user-interface. Our lab-rats guinea-pigs test-subjects stopped looking at the UI entirely. This resulted in a few difficulties getting feedback, as our subjects didn't readily notice that they'd received IMs.

'I have to concentrate a lot to deliberately look at [the interface elements],' said one, 'my focus keeps going back to the world.'

Our other two testers reported similarly. The user-interface was less of a bother, because their brains and eyes seemed to be increasingly tuning it out of conscious perception.

'It's still hard to look at,' reported another, 'I'm just not looking at it as much anymore, and avoiding tasks where I need to do that.'

The color receptors in the human eye constitute approximately 64% of the total. Green receptors constitute about 32%, and blue receptors only 2%, but they are the most sensitive, triggering at far lower luminance levels than the red or green receptors (you can still discern blue when there is too little light to discern reds or greens). Additionally the visual centers of the brain boost the perception of blue relative to other colors. [Hecht, Eugene, Optics, 2nd Ed, Addison Wesley, 1987]

We find it interesting that all the work to modernize and improve the look of the user-interface seems to mostly result in it being harder to actually perceive.

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