Dr. Brown gives Marty some 21st century clothes in order to blend in. The first is the pair of Nike MAGs. The other item of clothing Marty must don is a jacket. It has two functions. When Marty first tries it on, the sleeves are nearly twice as long as they ought to be. After complaining that it doesnt fit, Dr. Brown reaches and pinches a blinking and beeping red LED at the base of the jacket’s zipper. In response, the sleeves retract to a proper length, the pocket flaps shrink, and the epaulettes flatten out as a synthesized voice states, “Adjusting fit.”
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.
Jack’s Bike is a compact, moto-cross-like motorcycle. It’s stored folded up in a rear cargo area of the Bubbleship when not in use. To get it ready to ride Jack:
- Unlocks the cargo pod from a button on his wrist
- Pulls it out of the Bubbleship
- Unfolds its components (which lock automatically into place)
- Rides off.
When Jack mounts the bike it automatically powers on and is ready to ride.
The recruits practice their war skills with capture the flag games. Each participant carries visible-laser weapons (color coded to match the team color) to fire at members of the other team, and wears a special vest that detects when it is hit with a laser, flashing briefly with red lights on the front and back and thereafter delivering a debilitating shock to the wearer until the game is over.
There are lots of brain devices, and the book has a whole chapter dedicated to them. Most of these brain devices are passive, merely needing to be near the brain to have whatever effect they are meant to have (the chapter discusses in turn: reading from the brain, writing to the brain, telexperience, telepresence, manifesting thought, virtual sex, piloting a spaceship, and playing an addictive game. It’s a good chapter that never got that much love. Check it out.)
Since the vast majority of these devices are activated by, well, you know, invisible brain waves, the most that can be pulled from them are sartorial– and social-ness of their industrial design. But there are two with genuine state-change interactions of note for interaction designers.
Star Trek: The Next Generation
The eponymous Game of S05E06 is delivered through a wearable headset. It is a thin band that arcs over the head from ear to ear, with two extensions out in front of the face that project visuals into the wearer’s eyes.
The only physical interaction with the device is activation, which is accomplished by depressing a momentary button located at the top of one of the temples. It’s a nice placement since the temple affords placing a thumb beneath it to provide a brace against which a forefinger can push the button. And even if you didn’t want to brace with the thumb, the friction of the arc across the head provides enough resistance on its own to keep the thing in place against the pressure. Simple, but notable. Contrast this with the buttons on the wearable control panels that are sometimes quite awkward to press into skin.
Minority Report (2002)
The second is the Halo coercion device from Minority Report. This is barely worth mentioning, since the interaction is by the PreCrime cop, and it is only to extend it from a compact shape to one suitable for placing on a PreCriminal’s head. Push the button and pop! it opens. While it’s actually being worn there is no interacting with it…or much of anything, really.
Head: Y U No house interactions?
There is a solid physiological reason why the head isn’t a common place for interactions, and that’s that raising the hands above the heart requires a small bit of cardiac effort, and wouldn’t be suitable for frequent interactions simply because over time it would add up to work. Google Glass faced similar challenges, and my guess is that’s why it uses a blended interface of voice, head gestures, and a few manual gestures. Relying on purely manual interactions would violate the wearable principle of apposite I/O.
At least as far as sci-fi is telling us, the head is not often a fitting place for manual interactions.
In Make It So, I posited my definition of an interface as “all parts of a thing that enable its use,” and I still think it’s a useful one. With this definition in mind, we can speak of each of those components and capabilities above (less the invisible ones) and evaluate its parts according to the criteria I’ve posited for all wearable technology:
- Sartorial (materially suitable for wearing)
- Social (fits into our social lives)
- Easy to access and use
- Tough to accidentally activate
- Having apposite inputs and outputs (suitable for use while being worn)
It’s sartorial and easy to access/use. It’s ergonomic, well designed for grabbing, fitting into the ear canal, staying in place, and pulling back out again. Its speakers produce perfect sound and the wirelessness makes it as unobtrusive as it can be without being an implant.
It’s slightly hidden as a social signal, and casual observers might think the user is speaking to himself. This has, in the real world, become less and less of a social stigma, and in the world of Her, it’s ubiquitous, so that’s not a problem for that culture.
Depending on how you slice things, the OS1 interface consists of five components and three (and a half) capabilities.
The earpiece is small and wireless, just large enough to fit snugly in the ear and provide an easy handle for pulling out again. It has two modes. When the earpiece is in Theodore’s ear, it’s in private mode, hearable only by him. When the earpiece is out, the speaker is as loud as a human speaking at room volume. It can produce both voice and other sounds, offering a few beeps and boops to signal needing attention and changes in the mode.
I think I have to make up a name for this device, and “cameo phone” seems to fit. This small, hand-sized, bi-fold device has one camera on the outside an one on the inside of the recto, and a display screen on the inside of the verso. It folds along its long edge, unlike the old clamshell phones. The has smartphone capabilities. It wirelessly communicates with the internet. Theodore occasionally slides his finger left to right across the wood, so it has some touch-gesture sensitivity. A stripe around the outside-edge of the cameo can glow red to act as a visual signal to get its user’s attention. This is quite useful when the cameo is folded up and sitting on a nightstand, for instance. Continue reading
Though most everyone in the audience left Minority Report with the precrime scrubber interface burned into their minds (see Chapter 5 of the book for more on that interface), the film was loaded with lots of other interfaces to consider, not the least of which were the wearable devices.
Precrime forearm devices
These devices are worn when Anderton is in his field uniform while on duty, and are built into the material across the left forearm. On the anterior side just at the wrist is a microphone for communications with dispatch and other officers. By simply raising that side of his forearm near his mouth, Anderton opens the channel for communication. (See the image above.)
There is also a basic circular display in the middle of the posterior left forearm that displays a countdown for the current mission: The time remaining before the crime that was predicted to occur should take place. The text is large white characters against a dark background. Although the translucency provides some visual challenge to the noisy background of the watch (what is that in there, a Joule heating coil?), the jump-cut transitions of the seconds ticking by commands the user’s visual attention.
On the anterior forearm there are two visual output devices: one rectangular perpetrator information (and general display?) and one amber-colored circular one we never see up close. In the beginning of the film Anderton has a man pinned to the ground and scans his eyes with a handheld Eyedentiscan device. Through retinal biometrics, the pre-offender’s identity is confirmed and sent to the rectangular display, where Anderton can confirm that the man is a citizen named Howard Marks.
Checking these devices against the criteria established in the combadge writeup, it fares well. This is partially because it builds on a century of product evolution for the wristwatch.
It is sartorial, bearing displays that lay flat against the skin connected to soft parts that hold them in place.
They are social, being in a location other people are used to seeing similar technology.
It is easy to access and use for being along the forearm. Placing different kinds of information at different spots of the body means the officer can count on body memory to access particular data, e.g. Perp info is anterior middle forearm. That saves him the cognitive load of managing modes on the device.
The display size for this rectangle is smallish considering the amount of data being displayed, but being on the forearm means that Anderton can adjust its apparent size by bringing it closer or farther from his face. (Though we see no evidence of this in the film, it would be cool if the amount of information changed based on distance-to-the-observer’s face. Writing that distanceFromFace() algorithm might be tricky though.)
There might be some question about accidental activation, since Anderton could be shooting the breeze with his buddies while scratching his nose and mistakenly send a dirty joke to a dispatcher, but this seems like an unlikely and uncommon enough occurrence to simply not worry about it.
Using voice as the input is cinegenic, but especially in his line of work a subvocalization input would keep him more quiet—and therefore safer— in the field. Still, voice inputs are fast and intuitive, making for fairly apposite I/O. Ideally he might have some haptic augmentation of the countdown, and audio augmentation of the info so Anderton wouldn’t have to pull his arm and attention away from the perpetrator, but as long as the information is glanceable and Anderton is merely confirming data (rather than new information), recognition is a fast enough cognitive process that this isn’t too much of a problem.
All in all, not bad for a “throwaway” wearable technology.
The central technological conceit of the movie is the lifeclock, a rosette crystal that is implanted in each citizens left palm at birth. This clock changes color in stages over the course of the individuals lifetime.
Though the information in the movie is somewhat contradictory as to the actual stages, the DVD has an easter egg that explains the stages as follows.
|White||Birth to 8 years|
|Yellow||9 to 15 years|
|Green||16 to 23 years|
|Red||24 years to 10 days before Lastday (30 years)|
|Blinking Red||from 10 days before Lastday to Lastday|
|Black||End of Lastday (Carousel/death)|
Lifeclocks derive their signal and possibly power from a local-area broadcast in the city. When Logan and Jessica leave the city their lifeclocks turn clear.
The signal of the lifeclock is so central to life that most citizens dress exclusively in colors that match their lifeclock color. Only certain professions, such as Sandmen and the New You doctor, are seen to wear clothing that lacks clear reference to a lifeclock color, even though the individuals in these professions have lifeclocks and are still subject to carousel at Lastday. We can presume, though are not shown explicitly, that certain rights and responsibilities are conferred on citizens in different stages, such as legal age of sexual consent and access to intoxicants, so the clothing acts as a social signal of status.
As an interface the lifeclock is largely passive, and can be discussed for its usability in two main ways.
The first is the color. Are the stages easily discernable by people? The main problem would be between the red and green stages since the forms of red-green color blindness affects around 4% of the population. To accommodate for this, reds are made more discernable with a brighter glow than the green. As a wavelength, red carries the farthest, and blinking is of course a highly visible and attention-getting signal, which makes it difficult for an individual to socially hide that his or her time for carousel has come.
Black is a questionable signal since this indicates actual violation of the law but does not draw any attention to itself. Casual observation of a relaxed hand with a black lifeclock might even be mistaken for a colored lifeclock in shadow, but as the citizenry has complete faith in the system and a number of countermeasures in place to ensure that everyone either attends carousel or is terminated, perhaps this is not a concern.
But if we’re just going on human signal processing, the red should be reserved for LastWeek, and a blinking red for after LastDay. That leaves a color gap between 24 and 30. I’d make this phase blue, since it looks so clearly different from red. The new colors would be as follows.
|White||Birth to 8 years|
|Yellow||9 to 15 years|
|Green||16 to 23 years|
|Blue||24 years to 10 days before Lastday (30 years)|
|Red||from 10 days before Lastday to Lastday|
|Blinking Red||End of Lastday (Carousel/death)|
Location on the body
The second question is the location of the lifeclock. Where should it be placed? It is a social signal, and as such needs to be visible. The parts of the body that are most often seen uncovered in the film are the hand, the neck, and the head. The neck and head are problematic since these are not visible to the citizen himself, useful for reinforcing compliance with the system. This leaves the hand.
Given the hand, the palm seems an odd choice since in a relaxed position or when the hand is in use, the palm is often hidden from view of other people. The colored clothing seen in the film show that a citizens life stage is not really considered a private matter, so a location on the back of the hand would have made more sense. To keep it in view of its owner, a location on the fleshy pad between the thumb and the forefinger would have made a better, if less cinematic, choice.
Kusanagi is able to mentally activate a feature of her skintight bodysuit and hair(?!) that renders her mostly invisible. It does not seem to affect her face by default. After her suit has activated, she waves her hand over her face to hide it. We do not see how she activates or deactivates the suit in the first place. She seems to be able to do so at will. Since this is not based on any existing human biological capacity, a manual control mechanism would need some biological or cultural referent. The gesture she uses—covering her face with open-fingered hands—makes the most sense, since even with a hand it means, “I can see you but you can’t see me.”
In the film we see Ghost Hacker using the same technology embedded in a hooded coat he wears. He activates it by pulling the hood over his head. This gesture makes a great deal of physical sense, similar to the face-hiding gesture. Donning a hood would hide your most salient physical identifier, your face, so having it activate the camouflage is a simple synechdochic extension.
The spider tank also features this same technology on its surface, where we learn it is a delicate surface. It is disabled from a rain of glass falling on it.
This tech less than perfect, distorting the background behind it, and occasionally flashing with vigorous physical activity. And of course it cannot hide the effects that the wearer is creating in the environment, as we see with splashes the water and citizens in a crowd being bumped aside.
Since this imperfection runs counter to the wearer’s goal, I’d design a silent, perhaps haptic feedback, to let the wearer know when they’re moving too fast for the suit’s processors to keep up, as a reinforcement to whatever visual effects they themselves are seeing.
UPDATE: When this was originally posted, I used the incorrect concept “metonym” to describe these gestures. The correct term is “synechdoche” and the post has been updated to reflect that.