The TETVision display is the only display Vika is shown interacting with directly—using gestures and controls—whereas the other screens on the desktop seem to be informational only. This screen is broken up into three main sections:
- The left side panel
- The main map area
- The right side panel
The left side panel
The communications status is at the top of the left side panel and shows Vika the status of whether the desktop is online or offline with the TET as it orbits the Earth. Directly underneath this is the video communications feed for Sally.
Beneath Sally’s video feed is the map legend section, which serves the dual purposes of providing data transfer to the TET and to the Bubbleship as well as a simple legend for the icons used on the map.
The communications controls, which are at the bottom of the left side panel, allow Vika to toggle the audio communications with Jack and with Sally.
The main map area
The largest section is the viewport where the various live feeds are displayed. The main map, which serves as a radar, as well as the remote video feeds she uses to monitor Jack are both in this section of the display.
The right side panel
The panel on the right side of the map contains the video feed controls, which allow Vika to toggle between live footage from the Bubbleship, the TET, and of course, the main map view.
Although never shown in use in the film, the bottom right of the screen houses the tower rotation controls. This unused control is the only indication the capability even exists, so it is unknown whether the tower rotates 360 degrees or whether it’s limited to set points. (More on this below.)
It has robust capabilities
At one point in the movie, Vika is able to use the drones to search for bio trail signatures when Jack is abducted by the scavs.
Vika is also able to detect and decode various types of signals such as the morse code message sent by Jack or the rogue signal sent out by the scavs.
And, probably unbeknownst to Jack and Vika, the TETVision can be controlled remotely from the TET to allow Sally access to the data stored on the desktop—as shown at one point in the movie, when Sally pulls up a past bio trail signature to send drones after Jack and the scavs.
It’s missing a critical layer of data
At the beginning of the film, as Jack heads toward the downed drone 166, he suddenly encounters a dangerous lightning storm and nearly plunges to his death when the Bubbleship loses power. His signature disappears from the TETVision map, but from Vika’s perspective there is no indication as to what could have happened — or that there was any danger to begin with.
Since the weather is unstable and constantly changing, it would have been better to include a weather overlay so that Vika could have notified Jack of the storm—allowing him to fly around it instead of straight into it.
It’s got some useless bits
The tower rotation controls are never shown in use in the film, so it’s not clear what benefit rotating the tower would serve. The main purpose of their mission is to ensure the hydro-rigs are secure and functioning properly, not getting an optimal view.
The tower is almost completely surrounded by windows as it is. And since the tower windows already face the hydro-rigs, what would be the benefit of changing vantage points?
It seems that the space could be used for something more beneficial to Vika such as bike, hydro-rig and drone cam feeds. This would provide Vika with more eyes on the ground, allowing her the additional support to keep Jack safe and monitor scav activity.
From an clustering standpoint, it would also fall in line logically with the other feed controls on the right side panel.
And some unnecessary visual feedback
Towards the end of the movie, Sally is trying to find Jack and the scavs. She accesses Vika’s desktop remotely in order to pull up the bio trail records. Although no one is around to see the information, the TETVision displays the process as it happens. Of course, this is necessary for the narrative to progress, but in a real-life situation Sally would only need to see the data on her side—not from the desktop in Tower 49. If they’ve managed interstellar travel, cloning, terraforming, and cognitive reprogramming of alien species, they’re not likely still using VNC. This type of interaction should simply run in the background and not be visible on screen.
Better: Provide useful visuals
When a drone picks up a bio trail signal, a visual of a DNA sequence is displayed. Since the analysis is being conducted by Sally on the TET, it seems that this information isn’t really useful to Vika at all.
From Vika’s point of view it seems like the actual trail would be more important, so why not show a drone cam feed complete with the HUD overlay? She could instantly gain more information by seeing that there are two bio trails—proving that Jack has been captured by the scavs and taken to another location.
One wonders, as has been discussed briefly before, if the lack of additional useful information on the desktop, represents a more YAGNI (“You Ain’t Gonna Need It”) approach to design from the TET.
If it’s a given that the TET has learned to both rely on, and placate, Jack’s nature in search of the most “effective team” it doesn’t seem unreasonable that Jack and Vika’s ability to survive and overcome obstacles is only augmented when they fail. I can imagine a set of circumstances that would necessitate better technician recognition by the drones being an organic give-and-take between drone warning speed and Jack’s disinterest in being blown to bits. The usefulness and sparseness of Jack’s bike has been pointed out as another clue.
Perhaps the TET’s use of Jack and Vika teams not only provides it with an adaptable native workforce, but also limits it’s need to “think of everything” upfront.
The rotation control… That also suggests (to me) that there might have been optimization “dead-ends”. Where a feature was understood to be required, and was not borne out, as being truly useful. And once implemented it became vestigial, but hard to justify removing. We see this kind of “system calcification” in software all the time.
Of course, this all presumes that it was not for some other film narrative reason that never made it off the cutting room floor.
The upshot of all of this is, the TET may not understand the requirements of Jack and Vika for optimal performance. While they are sufficient to the task (and at times excel), they may be experiencing repeated difficulties or inefficiencies related to their work that could be mitigated by more considered design decisions.
Lesson: Know your users.
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I always figured that the rotation control was due to the sun. They’re above the clouds, nothing to stop the sun from glaring in on all of their reflective surfaces. Not like they need to hide from their neighbors and I don’t believe we ever see the sun out the windows. I believe there was a deleted scene showing the tower rotating.
Ultimately, I chalk it up to the tower, by default, rotates to compensate for the sun, keeping the back facing the sun, but Vika has an override in case of need (such as looking at a currently obscured rig or perhaps shielding the flyer from winds)