Sling Ring

A sling ring opens magical portals of varying sizes between two locations. A sorcerer imagines the destination, concentrates, holds the hand wearing the ring upright and with the other gesticulates in a circle, and the portal opens with a burst of yellow sparks around the edges of the portal.

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How might this function as technology

It can’t.

Teleportation, even given cutting-edge concepts of quantum entanglement, is limited to bits of information. All the writing on this topic that I can find online says that physical portals require too much energy. So we have to write the totality of this device off as a narrative conceit.

We can imagine the input working, though, as a reading-from-the-brain interface that matches a sorcerer’s mental image of a location to a physical location in the world. As if you were able to upload an image and have a search engine identify its location. That said, reading-from-the-brain has edge cases to consider.

  • What if the envisioned place is only imaginary?
  • What if the sorcerer only has the vaguest memory of it? Or just a name?
  • What if the picture is clear but the place no longer exists? (Like, say, Sokovia.)

Perhaps of course the portal just never opens, but how does the sorcerer know that’s the cause of the malfunction? Perhaps a glowing 404 would help the more modern sorcerers understand.

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@scifiinterfaces has you covered, Steven.

The gestural component

The circular gesture is the mechanism for initiating the portal, an active meditation that likely makes concentrating on the location easier. If we had to compliment one thing, it’s that the gesture is well mapped to the shape of the portal, and having a gesture-concentration requirement ensures that portals aren’t just popping up at whim around Kamar-taj anytime someone wearing a ring remembers a place.

OK. That done, we’re at the end of the compliments. Because otherwise, it’s just dumb.

No, really. Dumb.

The physical design of the Sling Ring is dumb. Like Dumb and Dumber dumb. There are plenty of examples of objects or interfaces in movies that only exist because a writer was lazy, but the SlingRing™ deserves a special award category unto itself. Continue reading

A better Circuit

The prior posts described The Circuit, critiqued it, investigated the salient aspects of matchmaking in Dome City, and threw up its hands saying that I’m going to have to rethink this one from scratch. In this post, I provide that redesign with the design rationale.

The scenario

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Logan is out and about doing his (admittedly horrible) Sandman job. While riding in a transport across the city, his attention drifts to a young lady waiting with a friend on a platform. He thinks she’s lovely and smiles. She catches his eye and smiles, too, before looking away. In the transport, he looks up at a glowing blue point on the ceiling near the windshield. It pulses in response.

better02 Continue reading

Atom transmitter

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To equip Barbarella for her perilous task, Dianthus sends her things using the atom transmitter. The device looks like a glowing table with a plastic dome sealing the top. One section of the dome is hinged on one side so it can be lifted and set back into place. The sender places the item to send on the surface and lowers the lid. The table glows brightly and the object disappears.

A “boing” noise repeats while the item is in transit. The person receiving enters a shared three digit number into her machine. (Dianthus has her set her “personal atom transmitter to 0-3-5.”) The receiving table begins to glow brightly. The transmitted item appears, the “boing” noise stops, and the table dims.

In this way Dianthus equips Barbarella with weapons and a means to identify Durand-Durand.

Let’s bypass the whole question of whether teleportation is possible. The key information a sender must provide is which matter is to be sent and when to send it. People are generally pretty good at simple physics, so using a physical space with a tangible interface to provide both sets of information is going to be pretty usable. This is also at a very comfortable height for placing and viewing objects.

The device, in turn, needs to communicate when it is in progress and when it is done. If Make It So has taught us nothing else, it’s that technology glows, so using light to communicate this state also makes quite a bit of sense. Using a transparent material lets the user see the progress and visually confirm that yep, it’s been sent.

The receiver needs to know when something is being sent to her and the ability to retrieve it. Having those things be similar to the sender’s device makes it easy to learn, once, and to infer use from watching the sender.

There are all sorts of exception case questions that would need to be answered for a complete design of such a system, but for the basic interaction of atom transferrance, this is a pretty awesome design.

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