Future Interaction: The application of IxD to science fiction.

18 Oct 2008 - 8:48pm
5 years ago
20 replies
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DampeS8N
2008

I'm a huge sci-fi dork, I'm sure I'm not alone in that here. One of the reasons I enjoy sci-fi is the chance to reevaluate the devices and computer systems thought-up by the great writers and film-makers of the past. It is interesting just how bad many of these interfaces are.

This discussion can be two-fold: What devices and interfaces do you find memorable from sci-fi you've read/seen? And/or how do you think some of these ideas, or even some of your own ideas, could end up being.

In other words, what do you love and how do you think it should function.

As IxDs it should fall to us to design these future interactions. Many of the devices we saw in science fiction that have become fact, function the way they were described. Perhaps it is time we think ahead and imprint our philosophies onto the fabric of the future?

Will

Comments

18 Oct 2008 - 10:02pm
Jeff Howard
2004

Nathan Shedroff and Chris Noessel gave a talk on this topic called
"Make It So: Learning From SciFi Interfaces" earlier this year at
SXSW. Lots of good examples.

http://nathan.com/thoughts/MakeItSo.pdf
http://tinyurl.com/5qk6az

// jeff

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18 Oct 2008 - 10:35pm
Chris Noessel
2005

Thanks Jeff. We're also presenting a sexy subset of this material at
the 2009 SxSW. We're aiming for the book to be done by then, Will.

I think my favorite scifi device was the video phone from Metropolis,
but for what it reveals rather than that I think it is good
interaction design.

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19 Oct 2008 - 4:43pm
Jim Leftwich
2004

I still think that king of all User Interface films is Wim Wenders'
masterpiece, "Until The End Of The World" (1991).

One of the interfaces in UTEOTW is mentioned in Shedroff's and
Noessel's talk (Bounty Bear), but the film is packed with a wide
range of very clever and different kinds of user interfaces for a
variety of computers, gadgets, and equipment.

Near the beginning there's an in-car navigation system that's
personalizable. Then, the detective "Winter" has bounty hunter
interfaces that feature a very interesting Super Mario-like
character/agent, that reflects searching activity. Lots of great
animation and near-Google Earth-like behavior.

Then there's the famous "Bounty Bear" application that the Russian
Bounty Hunter demonstrates (on a computer that uses advanced
"Vietnamese chips"), wherein a 3D animated Bear, dressed as Stalin,
reflects search activity by wandering around in a 3D environment,
opening doors, looking in manholes (all the while exclaiming, "I'm
looking... I'm looking, Be patient...") until the query is found
and presented onscreen.

There are also many handheld computers, videophones (which capture
video much like camphones today, though in the movie it's referred
to as "videofaxing" - indicating that there's a network, but that
the Internet is not itself mentioned).

Set in what at the time was the future, 1999 - 2000, the film made a
very serious attempt to create a range of believable interfaces. And
here's where I think that this film is instructive to our field. The
types of interfaces that the film portrayed were, I believe,
achievable. What the film failed to anticipate, was the bland,
grey-concrete-wall of Microsoft-type Windows applications descending
like a dull thud on our entire software industry.

The film anticipated something that was possible, but did not come to
pass - namely an intersection of the much more engaging Game Industry
(and the quality of "delight") with normal enterprise and
functional software.

So instead of novel and creative interfaces, the 1990s was cheated by
a tsunami of boring enterprise-software-like field-filled forms and
software experiences drained of all possible joy and supportive
visualization/animation. It was an incredible failure of
imagination, a disease of risk-aversion, and sad testament to the low
power of UX professionals in the non-game areas of software.

Today we may have another chance (albeit nearly two decades later) to
rethink software of many types, and begin to bring more creativity,
novelty, and visual reinforcement to our work.

It's unfortunate that this film (which in the theatrical release was
3 hours long, and the Director's Cut is much longer) is not available
in a U.S./English Language regional DVD. It can still be found on
VHS, or on German and Italian DVDs (in PAL /European Region
versions).

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19 Oct 2008 - 4:44pm
Dan Saffer
2003

On Oct 18, 2008, at 8:02 PM, Jeff Howard wrote:

> Nathan Shedroff and Chris Noessel gave a talk on this topic called
> "Make It So: Learning From SciFi Interfaces" earlier this year at
> SXSW. Lots of good examples.

Reportedly they are working on a book about this topic too.

They forced me to reevaluate the movie Lost in Space!

Dan

Dan Saffer
Principal, Kicker Studio
http://www.kickerstudio.com
http://www.odannyboy.com

19 Oct 2008 - 5:44pm
DampeS8N
2008

I'm not sure that game-like interfaces are the way to go for most
software. People want to have fun, but fun comes after all the other
needs are met. One of which is getting some work done, ie,
efficiency. Most game-style interfaces make things take longer.

In the early 90's we did have various game inspired interfaces. I
remember one from About Face 1 which was like an adventure game,
showing a street-level view of buildings to represent the tasks.

It doesn't work.

That isn't to say that there aren't places that it could work, but
there needs to be a speedy backup interface, and it needs to make
sense.

I can't see a gamey word-processor ever working.

Will

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19 Oct 2008 - 6:48pm
Jim Leftwich
2004

What you're describing isn't the kind of usage of visualization and
animation that I'm describing, nor was shown in the interfaces in
UTEOTW.

I'm not talking about using animation and delight to "get in the
way" of functionality. I'm describing the use of it to enhance the
experience, especially during areas of usage where processes are
occurring in the background.

Speed and efficiency are of course primary to good usage experiences,
but that doesn't restrict design and presentation to the kind of
interfaces that represent the overwhelming majority of software of
the past two decades.

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19 Oct 2008 - 9:25pm
Itamar Medeiros
2006

The first one that comes to mind (and probably the most obvious) was
Minority Report's "Image Viewer", which allowed Tom Cruise to
manipulate images that were being pulled down out of the minds of the
prescients.

That said, it was really exciting to see Obscura Digital put together
a stunning piece of performance art / data manipulation demo which
combines their proprietary multi-touch software with Musion's
Eyeliner 3D holographic projection
system.(http://feeds.engadget.com/~r/weblogsinc/engadget/~3/355992821/)

{ Itamar Medeiros } Information Designer
designing clear, understandable communication by
carefully structuring, contextualizing, and presenting
data and information

mobile ::: 86 13671503252
website ::: http://designative.info/
aim ::: itamarlmedeiros
skype ::: designative

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19 Oct 2008 - 10:07pm
DampeS8N
2008

This stuff is really cool, but is it the future of interface?
Certainly we will see holographs and holographic interaction, but in
many ways this big movements are tiring.

Even for a presentation, as shown, it doesn't help communicate
information. It is flashy, but getting attention is only helpful if
you can use the attention to get a message across.

How might we improve on this. What might be a better way to interact
with holographs?

Any thoughts?

Will

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18 Oct 2008 - 10:08pm
Sharon Greenfield5
2008

Brian Daley is the be-all end-all writer of new language, technology,
and culture for me.
Neal Stephenson runs second.

19 Oct 2008 - 1:57am
Andy Polaine
2008

There's a good collection by Michael Schmitz called "Human Computer
Interaction in Science Fiction Movies" from a paper he wrote:

http://w5.cs.uni-sb.de/~butz/teaching/ie-ss03/papers/HCIinSF/

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20 Oct 2008 - 3:33am
Andy Polaine
2008

I interviewed Dav Mrozek Rauch who designed the HUD for the film Iron
Man. It's an interesting example of interaction design for several
reasons. One is that it goes through three stages in the film, from
the very basic MK I, to the Mk II's bells and whistles, before
simplifying it again in the MK III version (that you don't get to
see much of in the film).

Also, there was a question of whether the HUD presents information
for to look at, or whether when you look at something it presents
supplementary information.

Here's what Dav had to say:

%u201CEarly on we were mostly talking about its functionality and
what it would technically do, but we weren%u2019t really talking
about it as a character. All the real answers came when we identified
the suit as a character and what it should accomplish in the
story.%u201D

%u201CI asked John Favreau and he said, %u2018He%u2019s having a
conversation with Jarvis, it depends on who%u2019s asking the
question%u2019. If Tony asks a question then Jarvis responds, if Tony
is flying and he%u2019s hit then Jarvis throws up some information and
Tony looks at it. Once I started looking at the shots like that it
became so obvious. What was really interesting for myself and the
team is that we weren%u2019t just making visual effects, we
weren%u2019t just doing design, we were filmmaking and we were making
stories and doing it in a very collaborative way.%u201D

I felt this was everything that Clippy failed to be. Thinking of
interface design as a conversation is crucial, I feel.

Andy

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20 Oct 2008 - 2:53pm
Loren Baxter
2007

To bring it down to the level of a single feature, I was always concerned by
the Transporter controls on Star Trek. They had this battery of controls
which they'd fiddle with, gradually phasing the teleportee from place to
place.

Unintended usability humor:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HxKJyeCRVek&feature=related

Why did they have to do this manually? What if they messed up? It seemed
pretty dangerous - no prevention of user error. I guess they never answered
what would happen if there was a mistake. Probably a painful splinching,
for those harry potter fans.

On Mon, Oct 20, 2008 at 1:33 AM, Andy Polaine <apolaine at gmail.com> wrote:

> I interviewed Dav Mrozek Rauch who designed the HUD for the film Iron
> Man. It's an interesting example of interaction design for several
> reasons. One is that it goes through three stages in the film, from
> the very basic MK I, to the Mk II's bells and whistles, before
> simplifying it again in the MK III version (that you don't get to
> see much of in the film).
>
> Also, there was a question of whether the HUD presents information
> for to look at, or whether when you look at something it presents
> supplementary information.
>
> Here's what Dav had to say:
>
> %u201CEarly on we were mostly talking about its functionality and
> what it would technically do, but we weren%u2019t really talking
> about it as a character. All the real answers came when we identified
> the suit as a character and what it should accomplish in the
> story.%u201D
>
> %u201CI asked John Favreau and he said, %u2018He%u2019s having a
> conversation with Jarvis, it depends on who%u2019s asking the
> question%u2019. If Tony asks a question then Jarvis responds, if Tony
> is flying and he%u2019s hit then Jarvis throws up some information and
> Tony looks at it. Once I started looking at the shots like that it
> became so obvious. What was really interesting for myself and the
> team is that we weren%u2019t just making visual effects, we
> weren%u2019t just doing design, we were filmmaking and we were making
> stories and doing it in a very collaborative way.%u201D
>
> I felt this was everything that Clippy failed to be. Thinking of
> interface design as a conversation is crucial, I feel.
>
> Andy
>
>
> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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>
>
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20 Oct 2008 - 2:57pm
Oleh Kovalchuke
2006

Andy Polaine wrote:

> Thinking of interface design as a conversation is crucial, I feel.
>

Yep, so does this guy:
Paul Heckel 'The Elements of Friendly Software Design' (1982)

Oleh Kovalchuke
Interaction Design is design of time
http://www.tangospring.com/IxDtopicWhatIsInteractionDesign.htm

20 Oct 2008 - 3:55pm
DampeS8N
2008

Loren,

Actually, the lack of automatic control is the Star Trek universe is
a crucial aspect of the story line. In one of the TOS episodes, the
enterprise is refitted with a new-fangled AI controler. And it goes
haywire and kills a bunch of people.

As a result, all the core technology in Next Generation was designed
to include a human factor that prevents it from going nuts. Which is
still a common theme anyway.

In Deep Space Nine and later Voyager, more and more automatic
technology seems in, finally with the holographic doctor in Voyager.

You'll also notice that transporter technology on voyager is much
faster and what you see them doing in the transporter room is merely
the residual swoop motion telling it to do the transport now. All the
rest is automatic, or directed through other means.

My question was always more practical. How do the people on the
enterprise know which 3 to beam up?

I very-much want to see more conversational interfaces. The computer
is doing tasks the user doesn't want to do, and in many situations,
treating the computer like another person is advantageous in getting
your point across.

So long as the computer is subservient and polite, it would work for
it to ask for help as if it is a person. I can see complicated server
software working like this, where it merely alerts the sysadmin to
problems, perhaps with a log, and also asks direct questions, and
offers up as much helpful information as it can.

The sysadmin won't be torn away from their terminal, they will just
have a few other valuable screens and an IM-style window to the man
on the inside. Natural language processing could be helpful, but
isn't explicitly needed.

You can present much more complicated information and tools this way,
and if done right, the computer can guide the user to where problems
most likely are. And as AI advances, be able to solve many problems
on its own, perhaps even learning from the user and applying what it
learns automatically, or perhaps with a permission step the first few
times so it knows it got it right.

This also has the wonderful side effect of making the computer seem
to work for the user, rather than now, where most software seems to
force the user to work for it.

Will

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20 Oct 2008 - 4:32pm
Andrei Herasimchuk
2004

On Oct 20, 2008, at 12:57 PM, Oleh Kovalchuke wrote:

> Yep, so does this guy:
> Paul Heckel 'The Elements of Friendly Software Design' (1982)

Heckel's book should be required reading for anyone in this field and
for any serious course on software and interface design. Also, I've
been saying for some time:

What is art?
The personal expression of one’s emotions or ideas

What is graphic design?
The communication that occurs between a designer and their audience

What is interface design?
The conversation that occurs between a product and its user,
purposefully crafted into existence by the designer

From:
http://www.designbyfire.com/pdfs/think_center_print.pdf
Page 16.

--
Andrei Herasimchuk

Principal, Involution Studios
innovating the digital world

e. andrei at involutionstudios.com
c. +1 408 306 6422

21 Oct 2008 - 7:39am
Tim Lynch
2005

I've recently become a big fan of Vernor Vinge's work, specifically
"A Fire Upon The Deep," "A Deepness In The Sky," and "Rainbow's
End." He really has a knack for realizing some "far out"
systems...the first two books are set way way in the future, but
Rainbow's End takes place in a near future, full of ubiquitous
networking, heads-up displays, spimes, gestural interfaces, and a
general blurring of real and virtual.

- Tim

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21 Oct 2008 - 8:12am
james horgan
2008

IDIOCRACY
A man travels to the future where everyone in the world has become
incredibly stupid because they no longer need to think.

The interface used at the Hospital (a large touchscreen pad with
icons for every possible ailment) is funny and accurate!

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21 Oct 2008 - 2:16pm
DampeS8N
2008

One issue I really had with Idiocracy's premise is where all the
innovation comes from.

I haven't seen the movie yet, I'm working on that. But I am forced
to wonder who invented the interface at the hospital you are talking
about. I mean, even the most basic, half-assed interface needs a
platform to run on. Where did that platform come from?

Will

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22 Oct 2008 - 1:02am
Ashim
2006

Coincidently, this was posted yesterday on the "Putting People First" blog.
Hope this adds something useful to the list..

Science Fiction and HCI/ Interaction Design
http://www.experientia.com/blog/science-fiction-and-hciinteraction-design/

22 Oct 2008 - 2:32am
Erez Kikin Gil
2007

Pasta&Vinegar just posted this lovely list:
http://liftlab.com/think/nova/2008/10/21/science-fiction-and-hciinteraction-design/

Science fiction and HCI/interaction design<http://liftlab.com/think/nova/2008/10/21/science-fiction-and-hciinteraction-design/>

Some quick pointers about the relationships between science-fiction and HCI/interaction design:

Human Computer Interaction in Science Fiction Movies<http://w5.cs.uni-sb.de/~butz/teaching/ie-ss03/papers/HCIinSF/> by Michael Schmitz surveys the different kind of interaction design sci-fi movies envisioned during the past decade. It also interestingly describes how the film technicians made prototype possible and legible.

Make It So: What Interaction Designers can Learn from Science Fiction Interfaces<http://nathan.com/thoughts/MakeItSo.pdf> by Nathan Shedroff and Chris Noessel is a nice presentation from SxSW08 that looked at sci-fi material as well as industry future films to show design influences sci-fi and vice versa.

The upcoming paper by Paul Dourish and Genevieve Bell entitled ““Resistance is Futile”: Reading Science Fiction Alongside Ubiquitous Computing<http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/~afb21/tmp/puc-scifi-draft.pdf> that investigates how ubiquitous computing is imagined and brought into alignment with science-fiction culture.

Ciao
Erez

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