A colleague in the Computer and Information Sciences Directorate passed me a link for a paper about a pie-shaped menu system that was very interesting. The article looks like a class project of some sort (since there is no information on publication). I followed the trail, and found the following link for a Mac application that I have found very useful.
The fundamental application is QuickSilver, and the specific implementation (or plug-in) that the paper is referring to is Constellation.
The basic idea is to minimize transitioning the user's hands between the mouse and keyboard, and to maximize the automation of repeated processes. QuickSilver is a text driven application that automatically chooses items from your computer based on your keystrokes, and then offers a set of common actions for that item. Constellation takes these common sets of actions and can present a graphical pie-shaped menu that uses icons and text to identify the actions. The interesting contrast here is that while QuickSilver keeps your fingers on the keyboard, Constellation keeps your hand on the mouse. QuickSilver is also able to bind specific actions to triggers. For example, I can e-mail any file (text, photo, application), simply by click-and-dragging the item to the lower left corner, and a pie menu of possible destinations appears. When this is combined with photos of people or company logos, recognition is much faster.
I have combined this with MightyMouse so that I get a pie menu from the active application with a single button click. Nice.
Good setup instructions here.