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  • Apple Patents the "Spiral" to Replace Cover Flow


    Apple continues to look at circular designs as better ways of using the limited screen space, especially on mobile devices. A few weeks ago we looked at a patent for "radial menus" that would allow a user to use one finger - or mouse movement - to scroll and select items from a list. A new patent application published yesterday discusses a "receding spiral" GUI that would replace Cover Flow.

    The new patent, User Interface for Media Playback, notes that because of the size of the images, it's only possible to see "about one or two files before and after the selected file" in Cover Flow. To deal with this limitation, Apple would instead use a spiral in future OSes, for use with a mouse or other pointer device, or touch interface, or pen based contact pointer. The largest icon in the spiral is the currently playing track. Tracks ahead in the list are progressively smaller in size, receding into the virtual distance in a spiral. Apple had a similar patent out in September describing a new way to control iTunes.

    It's an interesting approach, if not immediately intuitive. The patent describes editing a playlist by having an icon in the center of the spiral representing the entire playlist. You would spin the spiral to find a track, then drag the icon to the center of the receding spiral. You could also use this interface to create a Genius playlist using similarity data related to the track you drag into the center of the spiral.

    Obviously, this interface could be used to manage any list, much as the way Cover Flow can, theoretically, be used in the Finder (though I've never seen anyone use it there). The patent also discusses a receding-V design, which would be similar to the spiral, but limited to selecting one item rather than adding items to a playlist or group.

    Like the windows-icons-mouse-pointer (WIMP) interface first popularized by the Macintosh way, way back in 1984, circular and spiral menus aren't new. The mouse pointer was developed in 1963, and radial menus appeared as early as 1969. But also like the graphical user interface, it will take a user-friendly implementation to make the radial and the spiral something we want to use. Apple won with the mouse, but pretty much failed with Cover Flow. Spirals will only take off if they're easier to use and more effective than what we're used to now.

    Source: ipodnn
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Apple Patents the "Spiral" to Replace Cover Flow started by Paul Daniel Ash View original post
    Comments 18 Comments
    1. Jarvan Zheitk's Avatar
      Jarvan Zheitk -
      Awesome,
      Would love to see it come alive
    1. Cowboy's Avatar
      Cowboy -
      Pretty sweet seems like the new ios they will release is gong to change thinks up a bit.
    1. Thijs_Elsman's Avatar
      Thijs_Elsman -
      who actually uses coverflow in music?
    1. madczech's Avatar
      madczech -
      Quote Originally Posted by Thijs_Elsman View Post
      who actually uses coverflow in music?
      Me! Just nice to see the artwork and findig music you forgot you had!
    1. furcioelbraveado's Avatar
      furcioelbraveado -
      I hace never in my life cared about this, but some of my friends are crazy about it. They would literally die if they cant find a cover for their album...i recognize though that a nice cover looks great on the i4 screen
    1. FancyMan's Avatar
      FancyMan -
      Quote Originally Posted by madczech View Post
      me! Just nice to see the artwork and findig music you forgot you had!
      exactly!! :d
    1. Zokunei's Avatar
      Zokunei -
      Quote Originally Posted by Westerman View Post
      Pretty sweet seems like the new ios they will release is gong to change thinks up a bit.
      Yeah, hopefully.
    1. j.eck.art.3d's Avatar
      j.eck.art.3d -
      I use coverflow in finder all of the time. I'm a designer and it let's me quickly view large photo libraries in much more detail than icons and even adobe bridge.
    1. athleticswimmer's Avatar
      athleticswimmer -
      cover flow is a big plus for me too because I have tons of music, when I scroll down the music without coverflow it just looks like a bunch of words, so this spiral feature would be really cool (for me)
    1. thetoothfairy's Avatar
      thetoothfairy -
      I use cover flow also and could not live without it! I really like it! I don't know if I like the idea of Spiral.....
    1. Cowboy's Avatar
      Cowboy -
      It just seems that apple is finally doing what us jailbreakers have done for a few years now lol
    1. FancyMan's Avatar
      FancyMan -
      Quote Originally Posted by Westerman View Post
      It just seems that apple is finally doing what us jailbreakers have done for a few years now lol
      Yeah, thinking "Outside the box" haha
    1. Zokunei's Avatar
      Zokunei -
      Quote Originally Posted by FancyMan View Post
      Yeah, thinking "Outside the box" haha
      "Think[ing] different".
    1. TheReliq's Avatar
      TheReliq -
      Nice, but why hasn't CoverFlow ever been implemented on the iPad. And whatever happened to IMflow? It would be nice to see the jb devs come up with something similar to this seeing as how Apple has never even considered it.
    1. gobol's Avatar
      gobol -
      I think this radial flow is a bit like the image viewer on the Symbian nokia phones !!
    1. Sanady361's Avatar
      Sanady361 -
      Good find.
    1. EskimoRuler's Avatar
      EskimoRuler -
      sounds cool but i never use coverflow
    1. CynicalDriver's Avatar
      CynicalDriver -
      I find coverflow to be pretty useless. I think that this spiral method is going to make the screen far too busy, and will only succeed in confusing people. While it may help you see something you forgot you had, it will only be because you forgot what you were looking for, even if only for a second.

      I am a bit OCD about album art, but not because of coverflow. I hate seeing that blank graphic on my phone when a song I got from outside of iTunes (rip, other music service) comes up.

      The problem is, if iTunes doesn't offer the music in their store (AC/DC, Garth Brooks, to name 2) they also do not serve the album art. This means that you have to manually add it... I have spent HOURS upon HOURS adding album art, and I still find ones I missed. There needs to be a sort option: "Cover-Art" which allows you to put everything without art together. Would be far more useful than a spiral taking up the whole screen.