Breakfast Sand Table


While eating breakfast, Vika views the overnight surveillance via a touchscreen interface that is inset into the top of a white table.

Which touch tech?

Anyone interested in the touch technology should take note: Vika places her coffee cup and breakfast plate directly on the surface, which indicates that it utilizes capacitive touch technology with a glass top. Placing dishes on a resistive touchscreen, which is made of layers of plastic and glass would have interfered with the interactions and would be less durable as a tabletop.

Jack joins her at the table and leans on the surface with his hand and later with his forearm, which supports the idea that the area surrounding the viewport is not touch-enabled. If it were, it would need to incorporate palm-rejection technology in order for his arm to not interfere with Vika’s interactions.

The interface components


The main viewing area is a hybrid of satellite imagery and topographic mapping, surrounded in the interface by surveillance data and video playback controls. A message next to the video playback controls reports the current location of the scav activity.

To the left of the map is a list of fuel cells that have been stolen by the scavs along with the dates they went missing. The last one on the list is flashing red to draw their attention—a new one has gone missing.

Some elements, such as the current date and number of days into the mission face out at the top and the bottom to allow both Vika and Jack to view the data from either side.


The interface is responsive to touch gestures. Vika circles an area on the map and the icon indicating unusual activity turns red. She taps the icon and a video feed begins playing. Jack zooms in on the video feed by using a five-finger multi-touch “spread” gesture.

Why is the vital information facing Jack when Vika is the one using the interface?

It’s interesting to note that the the most vital information such as the list of missing drones, video playback and the topographic shaded relief are seen from Jack’s view. This causes Vika to have to process the information and videos upside-down—even though the playback controls face her.

This can be particularly problematic with the topographic shaded relief. Shaded relief simulates the shadow cast by the sun on the surface. Viewing this relief upside-down can cause a perception illusion that results in confusion on what is a crater and what is a hill.

Better: Lenticular display

A better solution would be to utilize a lenticular interactive display. Lenticular displays are made by placing a transparent film containing tiny ridges over an image that is made up of two or more images sectioned into bands and displayed in alternating lines. The ridges in the film cause the eye to focus on one set of lines in order to come out with a cohesive image.

Then, as in the illustration below, Vika would only see the view illustrated by the white lines and Jack would only see the view illustrated by the black lines.


Utilizing a lenticular display would solve the issue of the shaded relief perception illusion and allow Jack and Vika to each read the information and watch the video from their own perspective at the same time.

The thing that gets a little tricky about utilizing a lenticular display for this solution is the fact that it is a touch screen. The elements that are being interacted with need to be in the same position for both Jack and Vika in order for the computer to know what is being manipulated. This can be solved by flipping the individual elements such as the shaded relief on the topography and the activity icons, words, etc., while keeping them in the same location on the interface.

Smart video recording and playback

So, how did the TET know where to start the video recording and playback? Given that the other interfaces in the film have the capability to detect motion, it is likely that the video recording was automatically triggered by the scavs when they moved in to attack the drone.

Unfortunately, there is no screentime granted to the use of the actual video playback controls, but assuming they are as smart as the rest of the interfaces in the film, it is safe to expect these controls to be more useful than simply sequencing through the scenes. The interface would probably allow Vika to scrub through a grid of thumbnails to quickly find any scenes of interest.

Why circle and tap to play?

The activity alert icon on the map was static white until Vika circled an area surrounding it. Only then did it start flashing red. Other interfaces on Vika’s main desktop provide immediate feedback with an audible alert and a flashing red symbol. Why would this one require the extra effort of circling the area? It would seem simpler to flash red from the beginning and allow Vika to immediately tap on the symbol for video playback.

It is possible that she is circling the area that she wants the TET feed to focus on, but if the TET has the capability to detect the activity to begin with, it should automatically know where to focus.

Another possibility is that she is used to getting multiple alerts every morning and the circle gesture could be for playing all of the surveillance videos at the same time instead of having to tap on each one to play. If that is the case, then she may be using the circle gesture through muscle memory since people tend to use repetitive gestures without thinking about it even if there is a simpler gesture available. If a gesture isn’t used very often, users tend to forget about it.

Overall, this is a nice system that effectively allows Jack and Vika to get a quick overview of the events of the previous night and gives them a heads-up as to what is in store for them that day.

3 thoughts on “Breakfast Sand Table

  1. Pingback: Breakfast Sand Table | Sci-fi interfaces | Pintsized Robot Ninja

  2. A simpler solution would be to use fingerprints, differences in body temperature, etc, to look at which person is touching the controls and note what that person is seeing and respond to it. This might normally be challenging, but given that only two people will ever use the table, that should make it much simpler.

  3. It would also be careful when assigning specific technologies to far future science fiction: We could build more then two types of touch screen today, we just stick with those two as they work well for what we need. However, assuming that the touchscreen there is capacitive assigns it certain limitations it might not have (For example, that assumes it won’t work with gloves, when it might work just fine with them.)

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