Each of the dinosaur paddocks in Jurassic Park is surrounded by a large electric fence on a dedicated power circuit that is controlled from the Central Control Room. The fences have regular signage warning of danger…
To restore the power that Nedry foolishly shut down (and thereby regain a technological advantage over the dinosaurs), Dr. Sattler must head into the utility bunker that routes power to different parts of the park. Once she is there Hammond, back in the Visitors Center, communicates to her via two-way radio that operating it is a two part process: Manually providing a charge to the main panel, and then closing each of the breakers.
The Main Panel
To restore a charge to the main panel, she manually cranks a paddle (like a kinetic-powered watch, radio, or flashlight), then firmly pushes a green button labeled “Push to Close”. We hear a heavy click inside the panel as the switch flips something, and then the lights on the Breaker Panel list light up green.
Now that she has built up a charge in the circuit, she has to turn on each of the breakers one by one. Continue reading
Once Dr. Sattler restores power to the park, Arnold needs to reboot the computer systems. To do this, he must switch off the circuits (C1–C3 in the screenshot above), and then switch off-and-on a circuit labeled “Main”.
It’s a good thing Arnold knows what he’s doing, since these switches are only labeled C1-3, and we don’t see any documentation in the camera frame. As he turns off each circuit, different parts of the computer terminals in the Control Room shut down. This implies that different computer banks are tied to the same power circuits as the systems they control.
So, since this is a major interface for the park, let’s make this bit explicit: When designing infrequently-used but mission-critical interfaces, take great care to explain use, using clear affordances and constraints so that mistakes are very, very difficult to make.
It might look like a mistake to have all the little electrical labeling to the sides, since this cover would have to be removed to get the components where this information would be of use. But that’s perfect. A user needing to remove this panel must encounter this reference information to get to those components, and so would know where to find them. This is a brilliant example of the pattern Put the Signal in the Path. Let’s hope there are similar signs on other access panels.
Wait…where are the backups?
These are the central computer terminals that run Jurassic Park, and keep visitors safe from the “attractions.” And there is no backup power.
When Arnold turns off the main circuit breaker, the computers (and servers behind them) turn off immediately. The purpose and effect of the power switch deactivates all the systems in Jurassic Park, without any kind of warning or backup system.
For something as dangerous as deadly deadly dinosaurs—raised from the 65 million-year deep grave of extinction—the system deactivation should at least trigger some kind of warning.
Tornado sirens have backup batteries in case the city power goes out. They are a solid example of a backup system that should exist, at minimum, to warn park-goers to move quickly towards shelter. A better backup system would be a duplicate server system that automatically activates all the fences in the park.
When Arnold cycles the visitor center’s power system, it also trips the breakers for all of the other power systems in the park. Primary safety systems like that should be on their own circuit. It’s ok if the fridges turn off and melt the ice cream (though it may be an inconvenience), but that same event shouldn’t also deactivate the velociraptor pen security. Especially when the ‘raptor pen is right next to the visitor center and is a known, aforementioned, deadly deadly threat.
The security alert occurs in two parts. The first is a paddock alert that starts on a single terminal but gets copied to the big shared screen. The second is a security monitor for the visitor center in which the control room sits. Both of these live as part of the larger Jurassic Park.exe, alongside the Explorer Status panel, and take the place of the tour map on the screen automatically.
After Nedry disables security, the central system fires an alert as each of the perimeter fence systems go down. Each section of the fence blinks red, with a large “UNARMED” on top of the section. After blinking, the fence line disappears. To the right is the screen for monitoring vehicles. Continue reading
According to Hammond, the geneticists in the lab and the software they’re using is “The Real Deal”.
It is a piece of software intended to view and manipulate dino DNA into a format that (presumably) can be turned into viable dinosaur embryos. The screen is tilted away from us during viewing, and we aren’t able to see the extensive menu and labeling system on the left hand side of the desktop.
Behind it are more traditional microscopes, lab machines, and centrifugal separators.
Visible on the screen is a large pane with a 2D rendering of a 3d object that is the DNA that is being manipulated. It is a roughly helical shape, with the green stripes corresponding to the protein structure, and various colored dots representing the information proteins in between.
The Control Room of Jurassic Park has a basic video/audio feed to the Tour Explorers that a controller (or, in this case, John Hammond) can use to talk to the tour participants. He is able to switch to different cameras using the number keys on the keyboard attached to the monitor. The cameras themselves appear to be fixed in place.
We never see the cameras themselves in the Explorers, but we do see Malcolm tap on one of the cameras during the tour while Hammond is watching it’s feed, so they are visible to the riders.
Hammond occasionally speaks through his audio link, and can hear a constant audio feed from the Explorers. He has some kind of mute button (he says a couple disparaging comments that the other characters don’t appear to hear), but the feed from the Explorers is real-time. It isn’t obvious how he switches between the different Explorers’ audio feeds, or whether he hears both Explorers simultaneously. Continue reading
Genarro: “Are they heavy?”
Excited Kid: “Yeah!”
Genarro: “Then they’re expensive, put them back”
Excited Kid: [nope]
The Night Vision Goggles are large binoculars that are sized to fit on an adult head. They are stored in a padded case in the Tour Jeep’s trunk. When activated, a single red light illuminated in the “forehead” of the device, and four green lights appear on the rim of each lens. The green lights rotate around the lens as the user zooms the binoculars in and out. On a styling point, the goggles are painted in a very traditional and very adorable green and yellow striped dinosaur pattern.
Tim holds the goggles up as he plays with them, and it looks like they are too large for his head (although we don’t see him adjust the head support at all, so he might not have known they were adjustable). He adjusts the zoom using two hidden controls—one on each side. It isn’t obvious how these work. It could be that…
- There are no controls, and it automatically focuses on the thing in the center of the view or on the thing moving.
- One side zooms in, and the other zooms out.
- Both controls have a zoom in/zoom out ability.
- Each side control powers its own lens.
- Admittedly, the last option is the least likely.
Unfortunately the movie just doesn’t give us enough information, leaving it as an exercise for us to consider.
One computer in the control room is dedicated to showing the status of the Jeeps out on tour, and where they currently are on the island.
Next to the vehicle outline, we see the words “Vehicle Type: Ford Explorer” (thank you, product placement) along with “EXP” 4–7. EXP 4 & 5 look unselected, but have green dots next to them, while EXP 6 & 7 look selected with red dots next to them. No characters interact with this screen. Mr. Arnold does tap on it with a pen (to make a point though, not to interact with it).
On the right hand side of the screen also see a top-down view of the car with the electric track shown underneath, and little red arrows pointing forward. Below the graphic are the words “13 mph”. The most visible and obvious indicator on the screen is the headlights. A large “Headlights On” indicator is at the top of the screen, with highlighted cones coming out of the Jeep where the headlights are on the car. Continue reading
The Ford Explorer is an automated vehicle driven on an electrified track through a set route in the park. It has protective covers over its steering wheel, and a set of cameras throughout the car:
- Twin cameras at the steering wheel looking out the windshield to give a remote chauffeur or computer system stereoscopic vision
- A small camera on the front bumper looking down at the track right in front of the vehicle
- Several cameras facing into the cab, giving park operators an opportunity to observe and interact with visitors. (See the subsequent SUV Surveillance post.)
Presumably, there are protective covers over the gas/brake pedal as well, but we never see that area of the interior; evidence comes from when Dr. Grant and Dr. Saddler want to stop and look at the triceratops they don’t even bother to try and reach for the brake pedal, but merely hop out of the SUV.
A number of the interfaces in Jurassic Park show a plan view map of the paddocks on the island. Some of them are quite unusual (take a look that that wraparound one in the center) and we wondered if the paddock shapes made any sense. It’s a little outside the site’s focus on interaction design, but that didn’t matter. Once we had the question, it kept tugging on our gastralia.
But, we’re not zoo architects, so we reached out to one of the premier such agencies, CLR Design in Philadelphia. They specialize in designing zoo environments and have an impressive portfolio with plans and exhibits all over the United States and around the world.
“They,” we thought, “They’ll be able to give us an informed opinion.” So we shot them an email, explained the odd request, and to our nerdy delight Dan Gregory gave us the following awesome thoughts. Continue reading