Microsoft Research Finds Women Take a Wider View

REDMOND, Wash., April 3, 2003 — Microsoft Research has found that women are 20 percent faster in navigating 3-D environments on computers when optical flow cues, or continuous visual cues for navigation, are built into an application’s user interface. This discovery is a key factor in overcoming known gender differences in the approach men and women use in navigating 3-D environments. The study concludes that software designers should build applications optimized for large displays and multimonitor configurations, because these form factors more naturally allow for the presence of optical flow cues in scenarios such as gaming, graphic design, architectural walkthroughs and various training programs.

“Our team of cognitive psychologists, sociologists, usability specialists and computer scientists is working hard to push the boundaries of human-computer interaction,”
said Dan Ling, vice president of Microsoft Research.
“This work in wide-screen displays will help lead to the best possible computing scenario for our customers.”

Mary Czerwinski, senior researcher and manager of the Large Display User Experience Group, George Robertson, senior researcher, and Desney Tan, Carnegie Mellon University graduate intern, collaborated on the project, which builds on a paper they published at CHI 2002 that provides evidence women and men can navigate through the desktop more efficiently when utilizing large screen displays that offer a wider field of view.

“It is now well-established that males do better than females in orientation tasks, especially in exploring virtual environments,”
said Earl Hunt, professor of psychology at the University of Washington.
“Previous attempts to close the gap have centered on training women to use more-efficient strategies. This paper represents an important advance, because it demonstrates that a characteristic of the display may be used to improve the male-female difference in orientation performance.”

Engineers from Microsoft Corp.’s Usability Labs and Microsoft researchers will present eight additional full-length papers and five short papers, and will host and participate in tutorials and panels on topics ranging from collaborative technologies and peripheral awareness interfaces to design and usability at CHI 2003. The conference runs Saturday, April 5, through Thursday, April 10, at the Broward Convention Center in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. More information on the conference can be found at

About Microsoft Research

Founded in 1991, Microsoft Research is dedicated to conducting both basic and applied research in computer science and software engineering. Its goal is to develop new technologies that simplify and enhance the user’s computing experience, reduce the cost of writing and maintaining software, and facilitate the creation of new types of software. Microsoft Research employs more than 600 people, focusing on more than 40 areas of computing. Researchers in five facilities on three continents collaborate with leading academic, government and industry researchers to simplify and enhance technology in such areas as speech recognition, user-interface research, programming tools and methodologies, operating systems and networking, graphics, natural language processing, and mathematical sciences. More information can be found at

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq
) is the worldwide leader in software, services and Internet technologies for personal and business computing. The company offers a wide range of products and services designed to empower people through great software — any time, any place and on any device.

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