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…
…and large lamps at the top of many towers with amber and blue lights indicating the status of the fence.
When Fhloston Paradise’s bomb alarms finally go off (a full 15:06 after Zorg’s bomb actually starts. WTH, Fhloston?) four shipwide systems help evacuate the ship.
First, a klaxon is heard on a public address system across the ship. A recorded female voice calmly announces that…
This is a type A alert. For security reasons the hotel must be evacuated. Please proceed calmly to the lifeboats located in the main hallways.
This voice continues to speak a warning countdown, repeating the remaining time every minute, and then when there’s less than a minute at 15 second intervals, and each of the last 10 seconds.
Second, in the main hallway, small, rows of red beacon lights emerge out of the floor and begin flashing and blinking. They repeatedly flash in order to point the direction of the lifeboats.
Third, in the main hallway large arrows on the floor and “LIFEBOAT” lettering illuminate green to point travelers towards ingress points for individual lifeboats.
Fourth, the lifeboats themselves eject from the ship to get the passengers far from danger.
The voice warning is a trope, but a trope for a reason. For visually impaired guests and people whose attention is focused on, you know, escape, the audio will still help them keep tabs on the time they have left.
The racing lights provide a nice directionality (a similar interface would have helped Prometheus).
The arrows and beacons require no language skills to comprehend.
The voice warning and the “LIFEBOAT” signs do require language to comprehend. They couldn’t have used Running Man?
You know when’s a crappy time to add trip hazards to the floor? When a herd of panicked humans are going to be running over it. Seriously. There is no excuse for this.
The beacons and the arrows should be the same color. Green is the ISO standard for exit, so while we’re moving the beacon lights to the ceiling where they belong, we can swap them out for some #33cc00 beacons.
The green arrows at first seem badly placed as it’s difficult to see when there’s a crowd of people, but then you realize that when the room is empty, people will see and follow them. People in a crowd will just follow whatever direction the horde is currently going, and seeing the arrows is unnecessary. But in a light crowd, people will get a glimpse of the arrow and become stressed out over an occluded, potentially life-saving signal or worse, get trampled to death trying to stop and read it to make sure everyone is going the right way, so ultimately awful. Put that up on the ceiling or high on the walls, too. Because people genuinely panic.
Zorg issues orders to the police to arrest Korben Dallas. A squad of 8 officers arrive to his apartment block. They know what apartment number he’s supposed to be in, but Korben’s number has been removed by Cornelius, and the neighbor has blacked his out.
To authorize the lockdown, the squad leader opens a police box mounted on the wall in the hallway by placing the top edge of a transparent warrant into a slot on its side. The box verifies the warrant and slides open. The squad leader presses a red button within.
During lockdown a klaxon sounds, red beacon lights descend from the hallway ceiling, and a loud, clear voiceover is heard in the hallway and in the apartments themselves.
THIS IS A POLICE PATROL. THIS IS NOT AN EXERCISE…THIS IS A POLICE PATROL. THIS IS NOT AN EXERCISE. CAN YOU PLEASE SPREAD YOUR LEGS AND PLACE YOUR HANDS IN THE YELLOW CIRCLES.
The circles in question are painted at chest height on the walls inside of each apartment, a little wider than shoulder width. There is a small intercom interface mounted in the wall directly between the yellow circles. The police use different interfaces for peering inside apartments and this intercom for communicating with citizens, but these will be discussed separately in the next post.
There are a few sets of users for this particular set of interfaces: The police, Zorg, and Korben. To evaluate the system, we need to look at each user independently.
For the police, this interface seems to work well. Since the lockdown is part of the infrastructure, they don’t have to bring anything but their standard gear and the warrant. They save energy and the tedium of alerting the citizens and issuing standard compliance instructions. In a fully networked world, you might think to simply have him or her authorize themselves using biometrics, but in keeping with the principles of multifactor authentication, you might require the officer to carry something anyway. Since you’d want a physical warrant for a poor or luddite citizen to be able to see and verify, it’s going to be there, might as well use it.
For Zorg and issuing authorities like him, he kind-of wants to minimize danger to his people and certainly his equipment, which this helps do. He also wants to cover his ass from citizen lawsuits, and having the traceability of the warrant-scan means he will have a record that due process has been followed. As we’ll see tomorrow, ultimately he doesn’t get what he needs, but as far as this lockdown interface, it seems like it would work just fine.
For the citizen Korben, the interface provides a clear signal and easy-to-follow instructions, so the proximal part “works.” What doesn’t work is that the whole system is horribly demeaning, authoritarian, and—fully risking Godwin’s Law, here—fascist.
Security is almost always at odds with usability, and this interface proves no different. To improve the experience for the good citizen, you might want to provide some warning, some ability to finish what they’re doing, or some less demeaning way to show that they are cooperating. But any concessions made for the good citizens will be taken advantage of by the bad ones, and so I don’t know that design can really fix that tension.
P.S. As of this writing my Minority Report review is not posted, but readers interested to compare and contrast a similar scene done with more seriousness some 5 years later should check it out.