application areas of focus plus context screens

patrick baudisch
     f+c screens
visitor counter
On a focus plus context screen, users can read street level information without  losing context. (click thumbnails for larger versions)

geographic information systems, maps, and satellite images

Focus plus context screen allow users to constantly see a large region of the map, while simultaneously having access to street-level information in the focus display. This provides users with better orientation and allows them to navigate more efficiently. Unlike fisheye views, focus plus context screens are distortion-free, so that they support spatial cognition, such as picking shortest paths. This makes focus plus context screens useful for a variety of map-based applications, such as geographic information systems.

Focus plus context screen running the Linux operating system.

large computer desktops

When running a window-based operating system on a focus plus context screen, the context region allows users to handle very large windows, for example when working on construction,  design, or layout tasks. In addition, they allow handling large numbers of windows. Unlike solutions using virtual desktops, focus plus context screens allow users to monitor application windows in the context using peripheral vision.

Focus plus context screen showing a 20-mega pixel image of the Mandelbrot set.

scientific visualization

Focus plus context screens provide users inspecting complex data sets, such as weather data with a visual context thereby simplifying navigation and orientation.


(a) Focus plus context screen running Adobe Illustrator (b) Focus plus context screens allow examining relevant details, such as brush strokes of paintings without losing  context (James Doolin: Shopping Mall)

graphic design

Print typically has a much higher resolution than computer displays. To obtain a print product that looks perfect from a distance as well as with a magnifying glass in hand, editors have to work with the print product in many different zoom levels. On a focus plus context screen, editors of print products can work on details while constantly being aware of how detail modifications affect the overall impression.

The first person shooter "Unreal Tournament" running on a focus plus context screen.

simulation, virtual reality, and games

When applied to 3D simulation or games, focus plus context displays not only increase the level of immersion, but also fit more information into the user’s field of view. The focus region offers high detail and allows seeing objects that are right in front of the user. At the same time, the context area is perceived through peripheral vision. The fact that the context area is low-resolution does not affect the user’s experience, because the human retina is basically restricted to the perception of motion in that area.

These games often require the user to make decisions that require knowledge of the world around them. In sports games, users have to be aware of the position of other players on the field; in real-time strategy games, users continuously make decisions based on the opponent’s activities on a large battlefield

The ContextWall prototype has two high-res regions-one for each user. Both users can use their own mice and keyboards to access the entire display space.

ContextWall: single display groupware

ContextWall is a Single Display Groupware system based on the focus plus context screen architecture. The display consists of multiple high-resolution computer screens that are seamlessly embedded into a larger projected display. Context­Wall supports three different collaboration styles. First, the embedded hi-res displays allow users to use the system for independent work. Second, users can interact peer-to-peer by acquiring material from or dropping material into the other user’s portion of the workspace. Third, Context­Wall provides the large display required for electronic whiteboard interactions. Context­Wall offers many of the properties offered by wall-size hi-res screens, but at lower hardware effort. This paper discusses implementation issues and first experiences with ContextWall.

During a video conference on a focus plus context screen, participants can examine presented details, such as text, without loosing attention of peripheral cues, such as the presenters facial expression.

Videoconferencing and teleteaching

There are many situations where a video presentation simultaneously involves objects of incompatible scales. In our demo scenario shown in Figure 8 , a person describes a small robot module she is holding. While it would be difficult to convey the speaker’s gestures as well as a detailed view of the robot using the limited resolution of a single TV camera, f+c screens allow all this information to be displayed. On an f+c screen, viewers can simultaneously see the speaker and a detailed view of the object as well as gestures connecting them. An overview plus detail solution involving a separate “document” camera for the object would cause the relation between the speaker’s gestures and the presented object to be lost. As a side effect, the large screen of our f+c installation allows the presenter and the objects to be seen at their actual size, which helps the viewer understand the scale of the presented content.

for additional application areas

such as circuit design, remote surgery, and the control of unmanned vehicles, see my publications, such as the CHI 2002 paper "keeping things in context".