Sci-fi University Pilot

How do you ensure that a complicated weapon can be fired by people hundreds or even thousands of years in the future?

Sci-fi University critically examines interfaces in sci-fi that illustrate core design concepts. In this six-minute pilot episode, Christopher discusses how the Ultimate Weapon Against Evil brilliantly and subtly embodies the design concepts of affordances and constraints.

This is a pilot, to see if folks like the format. So please leave your thoughts in the comments, and if enough folks dig it—and if I run across other interfaces that bear such explication—I’ll do more sometime in the future. If you’d like to view it at a larger size, check it out on YouTube. Happy viewing!

17 thoughts on “Sci-fi University Pilot

  1. Really cool video Chris! already show it to the guys at our local IxDA. You know, the end kept me thinking about this notion of design as a non-functional aspect of a thing, and is it really? Because, specially on things like this, diminishing the chance of user error seems to me like an equally important aspect to the actual (successful) use of any device. Looking forward to more videos!

    • “Design” is a big word, but for interaction design, it’s fundamentally tied to the function of a thing. Maybe for a shallow version of “visual design” it’s non-functional, but in my experience it always touches on function as well. Glad to hear it was well received.

  2. Good video, though there are a few audio and video issues – a few times you flickered over the Fifth Element backdrop, and a few times the audio seemed to cut out entirely as you were speaking – typically between breaks between words. (I’m guessing, some sort of smart noise-cancellation feature that doesn’t send any audio when it detects silence?)

    • All true. The flicker is a bit of style, but everything else an be attributed to my brand new video editing skills and being a guy working solo in spare time. 🙂 I’ll get better. Thanks for the notes!

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  4. Awesome video.

    I came up with a different answer to the combinatorial question at the end:

    4 pillars, 4 stones, so 4! = 24 ways to assign stones to pillars.

    2 uprightness choices
    3 direction choices
    2 orientation choices
    Or… 2*3*2 = 12 ways of setting any stone on any pillar

    (It’s a little more complicated, because if the stone is upright, there are 3 directions and 2 orientations, whereas when the stone is laying down, there are 3 orientations and 2 directions, but it’s the same result.)

    So, for each of the 24 ways to arrange the four stones, there are 12*12*12*12 ways to orient those stones.

    Then, 24*12*12*12*12 total arrangements = 497,664.

    Really, though, you could say that the number of ways to arrange them are infinite, since there are an infinite number of direction choices. Here we’re just constraining it to the ones where either a triangle point or a stone end-point face the center. It doesn’t have to be that way. If you allow for a flat side to face the center when the stone is upright, for example, you get 24*18*18*18*18 = 2,519,424 possible configurations.

    In any case, without constraints and affordances, it’s a long shot!

    • Such are the perils of my being a professional interaction designer doing amateur math. Totally dig the better math. If I get to iterate this, I’ll definitely make the correction!

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    • Thanks, George! Words of encouragement and appreciation are always appreciated, especially for the trial-run of new material. (Big fan of Stamen, here, as well.)

  6. This website is incredible, and that video was great! I have so much to learn about design!

  7. Pingback: Chat follow-up: Ultimate Weapon Against Evil & Constraints | Make It So

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    • I actually have two in the works, it’s just that video editing is time consuming as an amateur pursuit, especially with the nerdsourcing and computerese projects I’m doing for the blog as well. Also birthday. Also pride. 🙂 But soon!

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