I'm in a project were we would like users to interact with a 3D object. Users should be able to zoom, pan and rotate in all dimensions without using extra tools. I'm looking for best-practice design patterns used in other applications today. Examples of 3D applications using multi touch would be appreciated.

  • 1
    I don't have any examples, but it seems that there are plenty of existing interactions out there already: pinch for zoom, swipe for rotate, two-finger swipe to pan.
    – DA01
    Aug 31, 2010 at 14:50
  • ^ makes the most sense to me :)
    – andrewthong
    Aug 31, 2010 at 16:42
  • On thing that makes 3D a bit more complex is figuring out around which coordinate users expect the action to happen. When rotating what axis is involved, is it x-y, x-z, y-z or all of them?
    – Joackim Pennerup
    Sep 1, 2010 at 8:33
  • On a touch device, the axis would be determined via direction of swipe.
    – DA01
    Sep 1, 2010 at 13:11
  • @DA, direction of swipe gives you 2D. When dealing with 3D you need to add angle, too. A three-finger gesture gives both direction and orientation with less risk of being mistaken for a 2-finger pan command. Sep 2, 2010 at 16:06

2 Answers 2


Zen Bound (and Zen Bound 2) is an iPad app (usually installed on the Apple Store demo machines) that involves rotating a 3d shape to bind it in a ribbon. You might track it down; it is all about fiddling with a 3d object and its interface was reasonably intuitive.

PS: don't forget zoom. It becomes really important when dealing with complex 3d objects.

PPS: Look into Google Sketchup for more examples of good 3d interaction. It's not touch-based, but their "sticky tools" approach is a major breakthrough: for example, once you start drawing a line, you can switch tools to pan and zoom and generally reposition the camera to your heart's content, and when you resume drawing a line, it is as if you never interrupted the drawing process.

  • I was going to mention Sketchup. It also has a nice implementation of context-aware actions - loosely locking into guides or extensions depending on what plane or axis you are near, for instance. May 10, 2011 at 16:55

The Google Earth iPhone application does everything you are interested in. Multi-touch interactiong for zooming, rotation, tilt and spin all without the need for a toolbar.

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