Pivot is a new project from Microsoft Live Labs that looks very promising. It’s a system and interface for displaying and filtering large sets of information. From the Pivot website:
“Pivot makes it easier to interact with massive amounts of data in ways that are powerful, informative, and fun. We tried to step back and design an interaction model that accommodates the complexity and scale of information rather than the traditional structure of the Web.
When we use the Web today we treat the most fundamental scenarios as separate activities. Search takes us from many things to one, browsing moves us from one thing to another, and recommendations expose affinities that enable us to explore related topics. Can we do better by combining these scenarios into a more unified experience?
Pivot focuses on this intersection, enabling us to learn key lessons while attempting to broadly apply this philosophy to the Web. We hope that Pivot will inspire and fuel transformative experiences across the Web.”
That last bit is particularly interesting –the intersection of browse and search in particular. Of course, I wrote an entire chapter in Designing Web Navigation on integrating browse and search (see Chapter 11). There, I focused on more microscopic UI elements and techniques that web designers could readily implement. But at the heart of my argument is the fact that fundamentally, from an information seeking standpoint of the user, there really is not difference between browsing and search: people just want to find information.
Facetted search takes up a big chunk of Chapter 11 in DWN. And a good part of Pivot is an extension of faceted navigation. It’s really a big filter system using different facets–but a way more powerful way to do it, in what appears to be a much more direct and satisfying experience.
Notice also that the creators of Pivot talk about emotional connections and information experience in the trailer video. This is also something that distinquishes Pivot from other such inventions, I believe.
So, Pivot doesn’t appear to be a niche, scientific experiment with limited practical use. I think there are some quite valuable aspects to Pivot that hint at things to come. I’ll be interested to see where it goes.