A Comparison of Interactive Shadows and Multi-View Layouts for Mouse-based 3D Modelling

3D user interfaces allow users to view and interact with objects in a 3D scene and form a key component in many modelling applications used in engineering, medicine and design. Most mouse-based interfaces follow the same multi-view layout (three orthogonal, one perspective). This interface is difficult to understand, as it requires users to integrate all four views and build a 3D mental model. An alternative, Interactive Shadows, has been previously proposed that could improve on the multi- view’s shortcomings but has never been formally tested. 

This paper presents the first quantitative user evaluation (n = 36) of both the multi-view and interactive shadows interfaces to compare their relative effectiveness and usability. Participants completed three types of tasks designed to be representative of object manipulation in current 3D modelling software. 

Interactive shadows were significantly better (p < 0,05) for tasks requiring participants to estimate distance. This suggests interactive shadows interface might better help users approximate relative object positioning.