Creates New Kind of Calendar
Ben Bederson, left, and Aaron Clamage created DateLens
to make managing appointments easier.
(Newsline photo by Daina Klimanis)
By Daina Klimanis
Capital News Service
Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2004
COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Around dawn one morning, Ben
Bederson woke up, turned over, and looked at the window. He saw his Venetian
blinds and imagined a new kind of menu, the information expanding and
The idea ultimately became the basis of DateLens, a
program designed to make managing a calendar of appointments easier.
With DateLens, users zoom in and out to get the
information they need, so they can skip across their calendar, appointment
to appointment, even on a screen just inches wide.
“The problem we’re trying to solve is how to let the
user view more data than fits on the screen,” said Bederson, an assistant
professor at the University of Maryland, College Park, and director of the
campus’ Human-Computer Interaction Lab.
Most programs hide the unread information off-screen,
requiring users to click or scroll to reach it. Keeping track of hidden data
is conceptually difficult, Bederson said, and someone who has to move a
mouse along a thin scroll bar can get distracted from the data.
DateLens keeps information in context. (Photo courtesy http://www.cs.umd.edu/hcil/datelens/)
He and collaborator Aaron Clamage, a programmer at the
lab, tried to work around those problems with DateLens, which keeps
information in context and rarely offscreen. Now in its final version,
DateLens fits three months of appointments onto a palm-sized PDA screen.
Bederson is used to dealing with the display of
information. His Human-Computer Interaction Lab researches the way people
interact with their computers.
On his own computer screen, icons are not arranged in
the typical rows and columns, but in loops and curves he said let him easily
find what he wants.
His several years of work on DateLens impressed
Microsoft so much that last month it offered a three-year, $1 million grant
to the Human-Computer Interaction Lab, so it could work on other
The program fits months of
information onto a PDA screen. (Newsline photo by Daina Klimanis)
"Professor Bederson and his
team … exemplify a refreshing balance between unrestrained research
exploration and elegant software engineering," said John Sangiovanni,
technical evangelist for Microsoft Research.
Now Bederson is marketing DateLens through his own
startup company, Windsor Interfaces Inc. The program is for sale next to
PhotoMesa, another program Bederson helped create, which uses overviews and
zooming to help users find saved image files.
Though users need to pay $15 to use DateLens on their
PDAs, Bederson allows people to download the program for free onto desktop
© 2004 University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism
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