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Google Acquires BumpTop Desktop 94

TuringTest writes "BumpTop, a company that provides a multi-touch physical desktop metaphor, has been acquired by Google and made to 'no longer be available for sale.' BumpTop provides a direct way to handle information through simple gestures. Some media see this acquisition as a movement by Google to position against the iPad. Will BumpTop be ported to Android?"
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Google Acquires BumpTop Desktop

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    It'll languish for a few years, the main people behind it will quit, and we'll never see it reach its potential.

    • by JidsDB ( 862865 ) on Friday May 07, 2010 @11:45PM (#32136064)
      That's what I'm thinking, but I have the feeling that it won't really be used on computers anymore - more likely in Chrome/Android netbooks and slates, although using it to navigate a TV interface would be kinda cool. Placing the different options where you want them, grouping files by type - MKVs, AVIs, etc. or perhaps by program, put Planet Earth in that corner, Heroes, House, and CSI in that corner, etc. I just want to know why they don't want it to be available to the public anymore, because it had a lot of awesome features.
      • although using it to navigate a TV interface would be kinda cool.

        And as a remote control for an automated home. Use multitouch to navigate through a 3-d interior of your house, selecting the icon corresponding to the camera and microphone hidden in the bathroom or bedroom ceiling fans, and then view windowed or maximized camera output. Options for Wi-fi and/or 3G can allow for remote login.

        Also, use it for turning on lights 'n' shit.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by NekSnappa ( 803141 )
          And then the little blonde girl said, "Hey this BumpTop! I can use this." As she navigates to the virtual front door and locks it just in time to keep the velociraptor out.
    • by bhartman34 ( 886109 ) on Friday May 07, 2010 @11:45PM (#32136068)
      You mean like happened with their acquisition of Writely? ;)
      • by Zarel ( 900479 ) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @12:54AM (#32136408)

        You mean like happened with their acquisition of Writely? ;)

        (In case the reference is unclear; Writely is what became Google Docs Writer.)

        • Yeah but, according to the summary,

          "BumpTop, a company that provides a multi-touch physical desktop metaphor

          all they make is a metaphor.

          I didn't know you had to pay for those. Hell, I could give them metaphors all day long.

          At least with Writely, there was software involved.

          • I think you're taking the snippet too literally. In order to demonstrate the metaphor, you have to create software around it. Otherwise, all you'd have is a few graphics.
            • Yes and there was actual software available. You could download bumptop until recently. A friend at work showed it to me just this week. Nice but still in early development. There is a video of a demo at TED where the creator showed it.

      • by rumith ( 983060 ) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @03:27AM (#32136986)
        Or with any of their other [wikipedia.org] acquisitions. Hell, they even rolled out Dodgeball [now Google Latitude] despite both of the original authors quitting Google, and that was the most screwed-up acquisition of theirs that I know of. Just take a look at the Wikipedia list: virtually all of the startups they bought are full of life and have become well-known products (except those that have been acquired quite recently or deal with things like security or server technology).
        Add to the equation the fact that Google sometimes open-sources the codebase for the original product they got with the startup (like Jaiku and Etherpad), and I'm left wonder what else do you want with them :)
    • by ShinmaWa ( 449201 ) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @12:46AM (#32136364)

      It'll languish for a few years

      More like hours. Right after they were bought, the software was EOL'ed [bumptop.com]. The "Pro" version was pulled immediately and users were given a week to download the Free version.

      Whatever Google plans to do with it, they don't want it available in its current form. This leads me to believe they want to kill it on Windows to use on ChromeOS.

      • by Xest ( 935314 )

        Or they're only interested in the technology behind the product and just want to integrate the technology team into the rest of the company without having to fuck about supporting, and selling a product that in itself is of no interest to them?

        I'm not sure this is a big deal, they probably just don't see any value in selling and supporting the software as a standalone product, only in using the technology behind the product in their own software.

    • Its potential for what exactly?

      It looks like a more modern version of MS Bob.

      It is not a good idea to organise files in "piles" like a real desktop - the more rigid organisation of a filesystem makes it a lot easier to find things.

      • by CAIMLAS ( 41445 )

        It does not look like this interface precludes using a filing system, only that you can also use stacks and spatial organization as well.

        This spacial orientation is very important. Anyone who has done "stupid user" support before knows that users can get seriously bent out of shape when icons change their location, or when files "get messed with" (ie sort order changes).

        The "walls" I find to be a bit of a headache, but I can see their use. I do think a flat spacial orientation might be better, but the found

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by drewhk ( 1744562 )

      Maybe they just want some patents for multitouch technologies.

    • You mean like what happened to YouTube?

  • It's desktop software, right? Isn't it written in C? Doesn't work on Android, right?

    • My guess is they wanted the patents. We are likely looking at the future of multi touch on android as well as chrome. A lot of this seems to be mutli touch just for its own sake, but some of these seem genuinely useful.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by MikeFM ( 12491 )
        It looks retarded. What is useful?
      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Patents? From a little Indian company? I really doubt there was none :)

        I think they just acquired the skills.

    • >>It's desktop software, right? Isn't it written in C? Doesn't work on Android, right?

      Not yet, maybe.

      If Google is interested enough in it, well... Android has needed a good file browser / desktop for a while. I use Astro File manager, which is kind of like Midnight Commander. Decent enough or me as a Unix guy, but not exactly the sort of thing that will grab you mainstream market share.

      It looks like a nice little 3D desktop optimized for multitouch - but given that Android doesn't currently use multit

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Aranykai ( 1053846 )

        Android DOES currently use multi touch, though there is little of it in the UI as theres very little need for it. Maps, photos and browser all support it fine on all modern handsets and several 1.6/1.5 devices as well.

        I could see this incorporated as you say, a file browser perhaps. The 3D media gallery included in newer releases is pretty great on its own and would merge with these "gestures" quite nicely.

      • by sznupi ( 719324 )

        Too bad, regarding 2-panel file manager. Maybe I remember things wrong, but people generally could get the hang of it...and weren't so often as lost in their files as it is the case today.

        It might even work nice on a small screen and with smooth "touch scrolling" and "touch file dragging", I guess?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by TheSunborn ( 68004 )

      There is no reason to think it can't work on Android. Android don't have any problems running software written in C. You just have to use the ndk(Native development kit)

    • android apps are written in java. the android OS is written in C and runs on linux.

  • They seem to have been loving shipping Bumptop on all their touch-enabled PCs and laptops. I wonder if this will change things for them.

  • Why? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by carp3_noct3m ( 1185697 ) <slashdot.warriors-shade@net> on Friday May 07, 2010 @11:43PM (#32136042)
    I have always been fascinated with the "3d" desktop ever since, yes I'll admit it, Jurassic Park. That Irix program, I don't remember the name, but I have made it a point to try out all kinds of crazy 3d desktop apps, but I've found they are largely useless. They look cool often, but in general, they slow things down, eat resources, and usually just sit on top of the desktop instead of being shell replacements. What I've found more useful are the apps like rainmeter and those kinds of programs. Look at all the lifehacker posts of desktops, how many use 3d? Now I will say I tried bumptop and it was one of the better ones, especially the "mouse pattern" ability to control icons, but being a gamer I couldn't justify the extra resource usage. On a side note, one of the random weird programs that I shouldn't have liked but did was some old sonyu program that came on the vaios, that was all black and red and could organize things in a helix shape, I never could find it again, anyone remember that?
    • The truth is, all windowed OS's are multi-dimensional in abstract, you just don't realize it. Every dimension is just displayed as a new window. I know this doesn't look like the "cool 3D" system on Jurassic park but it's definitely a much more efficient way of displaying multi-dimensional data on a 2D screen. Try to figure out how to display 4 dimensions on a Jurassic park system and you'll see the problem.

      Hate to burst the bubble.
      • I understand that, and don't think I was arguing the opposite. I was simply saying that my basic criteria is ease of use, resource usage (which includes responsiveness), and visuals. Its cool, but doesnt fit my particular needs or wants, but I'm sure plenty of people like it and I'm sure google can do something cool with it (I imagine bumptop on a touchscreen for example might be pretty cool) So, maybe I had a bad title, but no bubbles bursts here.
    • Re:Why? (Score:5, Informative)

      by GNUALMAFUERTE ( 697061 ) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <etreufamla>> on Saturday May 08, 2010 @12:03AM (#32136166)

      I had the pleasure of using the original FSN (That is the name) on Irix 6.5 on a beautiful SGI O2 R10k. A friend did 3D and video edition on two O2s for years, and he still has them (and they work beautifully).

      If you want http://fsv.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net] is a clone that works just fine in Ubuntu.

      Regarding 3D desktops, it's not the same concept, but Compiz is amazing (Yes, it's more than just nice effects :D )

    • Re:Why? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by TheLink ( 130905 ) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @12:14AM (#32136218) Journal

      Being able to quickly link arbitrary tasks/windows with hotkeys would be more useful to me, as such I proposed this:
      http://bugs.kde.org/show_bug.cgi?id=121349 [kde.org]
      http://live.gnome.org/GnomeShell/DesignersPlayground/KeyboardShortcuts [gnome.org]

      Alt-tab allows quick switching between two active tasks, but is not as quick for more than two. In the end I gave up waiting, and actually wrote something to do that in Windows (my current workplace is a mainly Windows environment): http://sourceforge.net/projects/linkkey/ [sourceforge.net]

      It's handy enough for me whenever I need to work with more than two windows. It doesn't work with all app windows ( e.g. those using the ITaskList_Deleted property ). But I think I'm the only user anyway. I guess everyone else is happy enough with "alt-tab" and clicking.

      Lots of people get impressed with stuff like 10/GUI ( http://10gui.com/ [10gui.com] ) but it would be slower if you actually need to use it for stuff, after all I don't see how it can even switch tasks faster than "alt tab". It's only good for Hollywood ;).

      Thought-based interfaces are already appearing, so what would be a better UI than all that flashy animated 3D crap would be the ability to link "thought macros" to arbitrary actions or objects/items.

      Then I would only have to think "command" (this would be a unique thought macro - not thinking of the word command), "recall", [thought macro of object follows] (object retrieved), "send to" [thought macro of Bob here], "confirm", "uncommand" (to get out of command mode).

      • by rxan ( 1424721 )

        Windowed interfaces have shown us that they can be useful. The problem is that they gave us these windows without a decent way to resize them. How often do you actually drag the side/corners of windows to resize them instead of just pressing the maximize button?

        The second issue is that many apps don't resize very well and instead try to take over the entire display, or such a portion that it would crowd out other apps. Hell, even web browsers don't resize when their content only covers a half of your displa

      • Thought interfaces are cool and dandy until you get a trojan that logs your thoughts ;)

        • by TheLink ( 130905 )

          That's where something like my other suggestion might be helpful:

          https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+bug/156693 [launchpad.net]

          Basically instead of requiring users to try to solve something harder[1] than the "halting problem" by deciding whether a program will "halt or not" (evil or not), you have the program state up-front the maximum limits of what it will do, and if the user agrees (or the proposed limits are signed by a trusted party) the operating system will run the program while enforcing those limits. Yes most user

    • Yeah maybe but I should point out that my wife organises files by making groups and patterns on her desktop. She can point to a pile of icons and say that is project X and another is stuff for her family. Eventually she makes folders for archiving so I could imagine her working as in the video.

      It drives me mad but in real life I am the one who leaves stuff all over the floor and walls.

      • It drives me mad but in real life I am the one who leaves stuff all over the floor and walls.

        Thats just natural. Don't beat yourself up about it. Everyone has one of those "whoops" occasions now and then don't they?

        Who knows how many important people might not exist without a few of those whoopsies? XD

    • I think 3D desktops fail because they attempt to be a full replacement for the general purpose desktop interface. This software seems to be pretty focused on file management of photos, music files, email, todo lists, etc. General file management is a very narrow set of tasks one does on a traditional 2D desktop. I don't think this would be suitable for things like writing a 50 page manual, programming, graphic design, complex photo editing or any task in which you spend hours staring at one document and on
    • I never could understand how anyone would use a 3D desktop efficiently. The user can't really move through the space. The mouse or whatever you would use currently does not have a depth function. I don't like wading through files in 2D, let alone 3D. I've done a lot of reading and none of it seems to be in 3D. As it turns out, that's what matters. The way in which I learn and do work is an abstracted 2D technology (fonts, silly). Until the alphabet takes the next step to 3D, I doubt you'll see really effici
      • I don't follow, what do 3D fonts have to do with anything? All my books are printed using 3D fonts and yet they seem to manage quite well in a 3D world.

        • Are you talking about the thickness of the ink on the page?

          Open a book. Rotate the book to only view the thickness of the book. You could be looking at the page in four orientations: the first line of the top or bottom of the page, the first letter of each line from the left side of the page, or the last letter from the right side of the page. From the top or bottom, you could possibly read those lines, but how would you read the next line on the page? From the left or right you would be able to read on
    • Indeed. I don't understand why a realistic desktop metaphor is so desirable in a computer interface? I can understand it if you have a huge desktop surface computer, but for a tablet it would be suboptimal.

      What next? a house metaphor with different rooms? Walk to the office room to work, walk to the games room to play games?

      I like the multitouch operations, but I would like to see if there is research backing this desktop or if it is just cool stuff for the sake of it.

  • I saw this at least three days ago. Either this is a dupe story or I saw it in my SlashBoxes three days ago.

  • Old fashioned... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Illogical Spock ( 1058270 ) on Friday May 07, 2010 @11:49PM (#32136094)

    Maybe I'm getting old (in fact, I AM getting old :-) ) but, seriously, I think all that touch interfaces are great... for very specific uses.

          Yes, to organize "piles" or to zoom in/out photos, maybe it's ok... But to everything else, my good old mouse is still my choice. Please note that I'm NOT talking about smartphones or othes small pocket devices, where touchscreen is a real improvement (althought the phisical keyboard in my Android phone is essential). But for the so-called "tablets"? To read a magazine or newspaper; to see some pictures, OK. But for everything else, please give me my full keyboard and my mouse and I'll be happy. What makes me see two very different products: the living-room-reading-and-playing-appliance; and the computer. Two different entities that will live together for a long time.

    • by MikeFM ( 12491 )
      I think touch is a better replacement for most things but for certain tasks a mouse or joystick or real keyboard is better. It's not quite the situation of voice input though where it is useful but much less so than a keyboard and mouse.
    • by CAIMLAS ( 41445 )

      Why can't they be the same device with different forms of input that can work in concert? IE a "context-aware desktop". Gaming? Use a mouse. Open a word processor? Use the keyboard and mouse. Cleaning up files? Use the touchscreen. There's no reason why there should be any limitation or requirement on a user to change between these contexts, either.

      • No question about it. But the Tablets as we know them today (and speciallt the iPad) were developed, marketed and viewed as a "touch-screen only" device. No phisical support to turn the tablet on a screen, no keyboard and mouse option (yes, you can use bluetooth ones in some devices, you can use bluetooth ones in anything that have bluetooth :-) ), etc. The makers sells them as a big touch-screen device, nothing less, nothing more.

        We have some cases like you're talking about in the market, but they are main

    • Maybe I'm getting old (in fact, I AM getting old :-) ) but, seriously, I think all that touch interfaces are great... for very specific uses.

      Yeah, like a tablet. What did you think Google was developing Chrome OS for? Netbooks? Bwahahahha. The margins in that market are razor-thin. Google is putting together all the pieces for their tablet computer [wired.com]. Someone must have explained to them that chrome was not a suitable interface for an entire computer.

  • I like Google as much as everybody, though late with their "updated" search screen maybe not, but this seems like the thing Microsoft would do.
    They buy something and then don't sell it.
    MS probably usually does this to remove competition but I can't say why Google did it yet.
    Of course I didn't RTA, so I still have my geek card.

    • did you expect google would be interested in selling a one-off shell replacement for windows?

      they buy it to get the patents, and the technology. they'll incorporate the technology into other products. at least that's what the usually do. they have a long history of it.

  • I have a feeling that Google is just a "spoiler". You might wonder why. Could some one remind me what Google has done with EtherPad or On2 Technologies? This is not to say they haven't done anything useful with other acquisitions but the two named above are too important to ignore.

    Google, open-source the stuff acquired from On2 Technologies. How can that be bad?

  • Metaphors? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Bloody hell, they're able to buy metaphors now.

    Next thing you know their purchasing similes and puns and you wake up one day and realise you can't make your senior investigator in the crime novel you're writing a compulsive alcoholic, because Google acquired the characterization from Cliched Crime Detectives Holding Company two weeks ago...

  • BumpDroid... but I had a TOTALLY different vision for that name...
  • by whackedspinach ( 1703780 ) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @01:10AM (#32136484) Homepage
    I am always interested in any attempt to move away from the classic desktop UI design, as I'm not convinced it is the best interface paradigm. I tried to use BumpTop for a while though, and I just couldn't see the appeal. It was certainly a novel idea, but I thought it was about as useful as Microsoft Bob. I'll just stick with Rainmeter on Windows for now (not that Rainmeter is the easiest thing to use). I bet that this is a patent thing for Google, as I can't see them really designing Chrome OS or Android with this interface.
    • BumpTop doesn't appeal to serial killers the way Microsoft Bob did -- there's no talking dog telling you what to do.

  • by DavidinAla ( 639952 ) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @01:14AM (#32136496)
    I have no idea what Google plans for this software, so I might be surprised. With that said, though, it seems to me that this is the sort of software demo that impresses people who are already expert users of the current desktop metaphor. While that might include all of us who would read a site such as Slashdot, the VAST majority of people don't fall into that category. In my experience, most of them are already confused by the current file systems we use -- and software such as this simply takes the same metaphor and makes it more complicated. I think that what Apple is doing with the iPad (and iPhone) makes more sense. They're hiding the file system, which upsets and terrifies many geeks. Since we've been using this particular abstraction (and the ones that came with DOS-based systems before this), it's natural for us to think in terms of files. For most normal people, I suspect the approach that Apple is taking is more natural. Regardless of whether Apple has the right approach or not, though, I think the next-generation systems require a rethinking of the paradigm that we're comfortable with. It's time to make more of the OS transparent to the user in SOME way. Doing what BumpTop does merely adds bells and whistles (and a cool demo factor) to what already exists, IMO. I don't believe it will ever lead to anything that will be popular with people outside of geek circles.
  • File piles? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    That demo makes using a computer look like a lot of work. I don't want a pile of files I need to sort through one at a time. I hope they get something valuable from the patents, but don't take too many design cues.
  • by Enderandrew ( 866215 ) <enderandrew@ g m a i l . com> on Saturday May 08, 2010 @01:28AM (#32136562) Homepage Journal

    Wasn't Sun supposed to revolutionize the world with a similar 3D desktop back in 2004?

    http://java.sun.com/developer/technicalArticles/J2SE/Desktop/lookingglass/ [sun.com]

  • Hmm (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Google Desktop 2.0 anyone?

  • Some media see this acquisition as a movement by Google to position against the iPad.

    Error. Direct object for verb "position" missing. Bailing out near line 1...

    And I don't know if there's a rule against having two hyperlinks abutting like that, but there should be.

  • This looks awful the demo desktop looked cluttered and I can't see it making life easier or more productive. If anything I think it looks worse than what we have at the moment. I'm not against change in desktops and I realise that sometimes it just takes time to get used to but there seems to be a trend recently for making 3D desktops that just look flashy and not adding anything to the usefulness of the tool (in some cases detracting from it). This is not the first time I have thought this about new deskt

    • by Tacvek ( 948259 )

      I think the sort of interface they show may be useful for some tasks, assuming it has access to traditional folders too.

      Take the canonical example of taking photos of your low budget 9.0 megapixel (but 1.3 megapixel usable quality) point and click camera.

      You dump all your photos out on your desktop, and begin sorting through them, separating into piles that correspond to the folders you plan on putting them in, or perhaps if you are enlightened, the piles correspond to tags you will put on them, and when fi

  • woot woot woot
    go on, take the money and run.

    fsck everything else.

"I shall expect a chemical cure for psychopathic behavior by 10 A.M. tomorrow, or I'll have your guts for spaghetti." -- a comic panel by Cotham