Is 2D dead?

A neuroscientific approach

In 2011, Kravitz DJ et al published a discovery about regions in our brain linked to visual processing. One marked as the „Ventral Pathway“ is responsible to decode WHAT we see. From the „Dorsal“ stream, three pathways support both conscious and non-conscious visuospatial processing, including spatial working memory, visually guided action and navigation.

Default-aligned image The dorsal stream and ventral stream originate from a common source in the visual cortex.

This discovery raises the question whether the use of spatial interfaces might lead to more effective interaction with technology.
In comparison, there are many ways a digital 2D interface behaves that does not support our brains functions to process visual input data.

Further, the ability of patient D.F. to reach accurately for an object to which she could not consciously orient led to the hypothesis that the dorsal stream was concerned with automatic, non-conscious, visually guided action rather than with spatial perception; according to this view, only the ventral stream produces representations accessible to consciousness. A New Neural Framework For Visuospatial Processing.1 2

Conclusion & context integration missing.

Metavision, an AR device manufacturer, promotes the idea of altering how interfaces are designed to effect how Ventral and Dorsal Pathway are utilized for visuospatial processing. They advise building applications in 3D from the ground up, rather than adapting 2D interface paradigms:

Ideally, these systems work in tandem to achieve comprehensive awareness of one’s surroundings. Screen-based UIs, however, present a flat plane of dense objects and icons, which tends to favor the Ventral pathway over the Dorsal pathway. By arranging volumetric interface elements in true 3D space around the user, we can engage both pathways, giving the user a deeper, fuller understanding. Quote from Metavision.com3

So the basic assumption of Metavisions post is:
By balancing Ventral and Dorsal pathway through a spatially favoring designed interface, we achieve a better image-to-brain intake and thus a higher technology efficiency.

The missing element in this conclusion is how a spatial alternative of a 2D interface will effect memorization efficiency, and potential maximum usability.

For a valid experiment one could ask:
"Does kinetic movement and spatial perception of information increase our memorization of such information compared to 2D?"

For a valid experiment one could ask:
"Is there a possibility to compare an identical use case in 2D and one with spatial interface and evaluate these results with keeping in mind one system is rather developed and the other still in its infantry?"

From the perspective of Wurman's Law one could ask:

"Would making use of the location category to organize information increase the communication efficiency (consumption speed, long-term memorization effect)?""


  1. Kravitz DJ, Saleem KS, Baker CI, Mishkin M. (2011) A New Neural Framework For Visuospatial Processing. Nature Review Neuroscience. 12(4):217-30. doi: 10.1038/nrn3008
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21415848

  2. Direct link to the Paper
    http://europepmc.org/backend/ptpmcrender.fcgi?accid=PMC3388718&blobtype=pdf

  3. https://www.metavision.com/spatial-interface-design/