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.
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.”
One of Griff Tannan’s gang, named Data, wears a sound board on his vest. When Tannan gets a rise out of Marty by asking if he’s chicken, the gang member underscores the accusation by removing a protective plate over some buttons on his vest and holds one down to play a looping sound clip of a clucking chicken.
That’s pretty awesome, actually. Having all the sounds available at the touch of a button adds a layer of remix culture expressiveness with maximum speed. No modes, no menus, just remembering which sound goes with which button, and his spatial memory is perfect for that. If the buttons were labeled with the sound, or shaped informatively, it might reduce the burden on memory.
You might also reduce the time it takes to respond by removing the protective plate, but Griff is enough of a loose cannon that he might go violent if an accidental sound effect insulted him. So that extra step is probably the safest.
But if we were to really make this it’s most awesome, you’d make it agentive, such that the plate constantly listened to the conversation for keywords or keyphrases and responded with appropriate snarky sound effects. (Smartphone startup founded around this idea in 3…2…1…)
At the dinner table, both Marty Jr. and Marlene have VR goggles. Marty wears his continuously, but Marlene is more polite and rests hers around her neck when with the family. When she receives a call, red LEDs flash the word PHONE on the outside of the goggles as they ring. This would be a useful signal if the volume were turned down or the volume was baffled by ambient sounds.
Marty Jr’s goggles are on, and he announces to Marty Sr. that the phone is for him and that its Needles.
This implies a complete wireless caller ID system (which had only just been released to market in the United States the year before the movie was released) and a single number for the household that is distributed amongst multiple communications devices simultaneously, which was not available at the time (or hey, even now), so it’s quite forward looking. Additionally, it lets the whole social circle help manage communication requests, even if it sacrifices a bit of privacy.
Perhaps the most unusual interface in the film is a game seen when Theo visits his cousin Nigel for a meal and to ask for a favor. Nigel’s son Alex sits at the table silent and distant, his attention on a strange game that it’s designer, Mark Coleran, tells me is called “Kubris,” a 3D hybrid of Tetris and Rubik’s Cube.
Alex operates the game by twitching and sliding his fingers in the air. With each twitch a small twang is heard. He suspends his hand a bit above the table to have room. His finger movements are tracked by thin black wires that extend from small plastic discs at his fingertips back to a device worn on his wrist. This device looks like a streamlined digital watch, but where the face of a clock would be are a set of multicolored LEDs arranged in rows. These LEDs flicker on and off in inscrutable patterns, but clearly showing some state of the game. There is an inset LED block that also displays an increasing score.
The game also features a small, transparent, flat screen that rests on the table in front of him. It displays a computer-generated cube, similar to a 5×5 Rubik’s Cube, made up of smaller transparent cubes that share colors with the LEDs on his wrist. As Alex plays, he changes the orientation of the cube, and positions smaller cubes along the surface of the larger.
Alex plays this game continually during the course of the scene. He is so engrossed in it that when Nigel asks him twice to take his pills, he doesnt even register the instruction. Nigel must yell at him to get Alex to comply.
Though the exact workings of the game are a mystery, it serves to illustrate in a technological way how some of the younger people in 2027 disengage from the horror of the world through games that have been designed for addiction and obsession.
When Dr. Strange visits the New York Sanctum for the first time, he passes by a vitrine in which a lush red cape hovers in midair. It’s the Cloak of Levitation, and in this moment it chooses Strange. We see many of its functions throughout the movie.
When the glass of the vitrine is broken and Kaecilius stabs at Strange with a Soul Sword, the Cloak reaches out with a corner and stays Kaecilius’ hand to save Strange.
When Kaecilius knocks Strange down a stairwell, the Cloak chases him, catches him, and floats him back up to the fight. (See above.)
Attached by two fibulae to his surcoat, it can pull him, physically, and does so several times for different reasons:
to get him out of the first fight with Kaecilius
to help him dodge the soul sword
to keep him from grabbing ineffective weapons, pointing him instead to the more effective Crimson Bands of Cyttorak
Unbidden, the Cloak wraps itself around the head of one of Kaecilius’ zealots, drags him around, and slams his head into the walls and floor until the zealot is dead. (Even though, for the entire end of the fight, Strange is across town getting medical attention.) After the combat, the Cloak hovers next to the dead zealot, perhaps keeping watch.
After Strange tells Christine goodbye in the surgical prep room, the Cloak gently floats itself into place and uses the corner of its popped collar to remove blood from Strange’s face, to his annoyance. He tells it to, “Stop!” and it relaxes.
It pulls him out of the path of some flying debris while time is reversed before the Hong Kong Sanctum, and defends him from a punch later in the same sequence.
He uses it to fly through the portal into the Dark Dimension to face Dormammu.
It dons itself in the Kamar-Taj, brusquely enough to cause Strange to catch his balance.
The Cloak is like a guardian angel. Or maybe a super-familiar, in the wizard sense. It keeps an eye out for Strange. It is able to predict, protect, crudely inform, and, not least, fly. It acts as both an assistant and an agent. (More on this later) Continue reading →
How could this work as technology instead of magic?
In the prior post I looked at the Cloak as a bit of wearable technology. Today let’s ask ourselves how possible this is in the real world.
The abilities of the Cloak listed in the first post imply a great deal of functionality: Situational awareness, lightning fast thinking, precision actuators throughout its fabric, gravity controls for itself and its wearer, goal awareness, knowledge of the world. Some of these aren’t going to happen, but some are conceivable over time.
Mordo wears the Vaulting Boots of Valtor throughout the movie and first demonstrates their use to Dr. Strange when they are sparring. The Boots allow the user to walk, run, or jump on air as if it were solid ground.
When activated, the sole of each boot creates a circular field of force in anticipation of a footfall in midair, as if creating free-floating stepping stones.
How might this work as tech?
The main interaction design challenge is how the wearer indicates where he wants a stepping-stone to appear. The best solution is to let Mordo’s footfall location and motion inform the boots when and where he expects there to be a solid surface. (Anyone who has stumbled while misjudging the height or location of a step on a stairway knows how differently you treat a step where you expect there to be solid footing.)
If this were a technological device, sensors within the boots would retain a detailed history of the wearer’s stride for all possible speeds and distances of movement. The boots would detect muscle tension and flexion combined with the owner’s direction and velocity to accurately predict the placement of each step and then insert an appropriately elevated and angled stepping stone. The boots would know the difference between each of these styles of movement, walking, running, and sprinting and behave accordingly.
As a result, Mordo could always remain upright and stable regardless of his intended direction or how high he had climbed. And while Mordo may be a sorcerer with exceptional physical training, he isn’t superhuman. With the power of the boots he is only able to run and step as high as he could normally if for example he was taking a set of stairs two or three at a time.
As a magical device, the intelligence imbued in the boots is limited to the awareness of the intent of the sorcerer and knows where to place each force-field stepping-stone.
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.
How might this function as technology
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.
@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 →