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A Differential Approach to Graphical Manipulation

PhD thesis from Carnegie Mellon University — 1994
Download the publication : thesis-all.pdf [1.5Mo]  
Direct manipulation has become the preferred interface for controlling graphical objects. Despite its success, the ad hoc manner with which such interfaces have been designed and implemented restricts the types of interactive controls. This dissertation presents a new approach that provides a systematic method for implementing flexible, combinable interactive controls. This differential approach to graphical interaction uses constrained optimization to couple user controls to graphical objects in a manner that permits a variety of controls to be freely combined. The differential approach provides a new set of abstractions that enable new types of interaction techniques and new ways of modularizing applications. The differential approach views graphical object manipulation as an equation solving problem: Given the desired values for the user specified controls, find a configuration of the graphical objects that meet these constraints. To solve these equations in a sufficiently general manner, the differential approach controls the motion of the objects over time. At any instant in time, controls specify desired rates of change that form linear constraints on the time derivatives of the parameters. An optimization objective selects a particular value when these constraints do not determine a unique solution. The differential approach solves these constrained optimization problems to compute the derivatives of the parameters. An ordinary differential equation solver uses these rates to compute object motions. This thesis addresses the issues in using numerical techniques to provide interactive control of graphical objects. Techniques are presented to solve the constrained optimization problems efficiently and to dynamically define equations in response to system events. The thesis introduces an architecture, called Snap-Together Mathematics, that encapsulates these numerical needs. A graphics toolkit, constructed with Snap- Together Mathematics, provides the features of the differential approach yet hides the underlying machinery from the applications programmer. The thesis demonstrates the differential approach by applying it to a variety of interaction problems, including manipulation of 2D and 3D objects, lighting, and camera control. Demonstrated interaction techniques include novel methods for some specific interaction tasks. A number of prototype applications, including 3Dobject construction and mechanisms sketching, demonstrate the tools and the approach.

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BibTex references

  author       = "Gleicher, Michael",
  title        = "A Differential Approach to Graphical Manipulation",
  school       = "Carnegie Mellon University",
  year         = "1994",
  address      = "Pittsburgh, PA",
  projecturl   = "http://www.cs.wisc.edu/graphics/Papers/Gleicher/Thesis/index.html",
  url          = "http://graphics.cs.wisc.edu/Papers/1994/Gle94a"

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