Trivium remotes

Once a victim is wearing a Trivium Bracelet, any of Orlak’s henchmen can control the wearer’s actions. The victim’s expression is blank, suggesting that their consciousness is either comatose, twilit, or in some sort of locked in state. Their actions are controlled via a handheld remote control.

We see the remote control in use in four places in Las Luchadoras vs El Robot Asesino.

  1. One gets clapped on Dr. Chavez to test it.
  2. One goes on Gemma to demonstrate it.
  3. One is removed from the robot.
  4. One goes on Berthe to transform her to Black Electra.

In these examples we see victims are able to be made to walk around, raise their arms, and drop their arms in a karate chop. There is one other function worth mentioning: When Orlak turns one knob really hard, it overloads Dr. Chavez somehow and kills him.

Death at 11?

So this bears an aside. This device is pure fiction of course, and wretched in concept for all the consent and bodily autonomy reasons, but, just to make sure I’m covering my bases here, I should note that “death” should just not be possible by turning a knob up to 11. First off, any moral person wouldn’t want that to happen, and so would engineer the damned thing to avoid it.

But even if you’re Orlak-eque, and want a kill function on your device, “kill” is a categorically different thing than “control.” It shouldn’t just be one end of a dial. It’s too easy to accidentally invoke, and especially for an irrevocable act. There is no “undo” or even “sorry” that works in that circumstance.

If only.

Even if Orlak was just hedging against of the possibility of his winding up in a bracelet, he wouldn’t want his own death to be the result of an oopsie. No, if you’re going to have a function like that, it should require authorization, or at least something like two-hand trip mechanisms, to make sure that this horribleness is, seriously, truly and for real, what the person wants to have happen. OK. Yes? Yes.

But I digress.

Doing the Potentiometer Dance

So the effects that we see are:

  • Walk around
  • Raise arms
  • Karate chop
  • Perform in a wrestling match.

Is it believable that the device can do what the movie shows it doing? Short answer: Maybe, but it’s a stretch.

Here is the beta version used on Dr. Chavez and Gemma, on the floor of the laboratory before Gaby kicks it and everything explodes. This is the clearest view we get of either device.

Come on, I know it’s in beta, but no labels?

Both remotes have a rotary switch on the bottom edge and two click-stop potentiometers on the top edge. At first glance, it seems that these controls aren’t enough to manage all the variables that could apply to the actions taken by the victims. Lift arm? OK sure, but which one? Where’s the elbow? What’s the hand position?

But if the victims are in a perfectly-suggestible state—rather than complete automotons—then maybe all he has to specify with the remote is some goal and the degrees of two important variables, leaving everything else up to the human intelligence to interpret and decide to the best of his or her ability.

  • Mode: variable 1 | variable 2
  • Arm lift: left hand height | right hand height
  • Walk around: speed | clockwiseness (even though this befits a toggle switch, it could work here)
  • Karate chop: Force | Palm angle
  • Wrestle: Face | Heel
  • &c

Since it’s custom-coded, Orlak might even have multiple stops on the rotary switch for different inflections of the same mode. For instance, “Try to win match” and “Throw match” allowing different variables that suit each mode applicable within a given match.

Pictured: Botched move mode.

This design strategy leaves a lot up to the intelligence of the victim that isn’t specified by one of the mode/variable combinations, e.g. Which wrestling move should I try next? How do I escape this oncoming chokeslam? But we’re working with a subjugated human intelligence here, and we are used to working to achieve goals under difficult constraints. That’s, like, literally, life. So, if you can accept the speculative technology that controls a victim and passes interpretable instructions to them via a bracelet, then yeah, this remote control passes believability, even if it looks like a high school theater prop.

The prop could be made better by having the modes hand-written along the stops of the rotary switch. And if it was a real product, knowing what the potentiometers controlled in the current mode would save the user from not having to memorize it, or trial-and-error it. But please, let’s not make this thing a real world anything.

The generalizable lesson is that when you are working with an agent of a certain sophistication, your users don’t have to specify everything, just the most important things. The agent can do the rest of the interpretation. (And if not, design a recovery mode.)

Again, not a robot

Note that this bit of apologetics only applies to Orlak’s human victims with their general intelligence. Orlak also has a remote control for the Robot Asesino, but it’s much harder to see how it could not have language, but enough general intelligence to do what it must do with those meager instructions.

No dials needed

A last note is that the script could have made it so that a remote control was not necessary. If the film had explained that the bracelet puts the subject into a state of passive suggestibility, then Orlak could just rely on his subject’s (and audience’s) familiarity with language, issuing spoken instructions for his automatons to follow, and bypassing the ridiculousness of this interface. But. You know. Then the writers would have to have Gaby save the day through some other means than kicking the remote. And this is not that movie.

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  1. Pingback: Report Card: Las Luchadoras vs. El Robot Asesino | Sci-fi interfaces

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