The doctor’s office is a stark, concrete room with a single desk framed under large windows and a tall vaulted ceiling. Two chairs sit on a carpet in front of the desk for patients. A couple pieces of art and personal photos line the room, but they are overwhelmed by the industrial-ness of the rest of the space.
When the doctor enters, he carries a large folder with the patient’s health information and background on paper. He then talks with the patient directly, without help from notes or his patient’s folder.
There is no visible computer in the room.
While not a traditional interface, this office is interesting because it lacks any traditional interactive features of a futuristic doctor’s office; things like holograms, giant computer screen walls, and robots are completely absent. Continue reading →
The Captain’s Board is a double hexagon table at the very center of the CIC. This board serves as a combination of podium and status dashboard for the ship’s Captain. Often, the ship’s XO or other senior officers will move forward and use a grease pen or replacement transparency sheet to update information on the board.
For example, after jumping from their initial position to the fleet supply base in the nebula, Colonel Tigh replaces the map on the ‘left’ side of the board with a new map of the location that the Galactica had just jumped to. This implies that the Galactica has a cache of maps in the CIC of various parts of the galaxy, or can quickly print them on the fly.
After getting hit by a Cylon fighter’s nuclear missile, Tigh focuses on a central section of the board with a grease pen to mark the parts of the Galactica suffering damage or decompression. The center section of the board has a schematic, top-down view of the Galactica.
During the initial fighting, Lt. Gaeda is called forward to plot the location of Galactica’s combat squadrons on the board. This hand-drawn method is explicitly used, even when the Dradis system is shown to be functioning.
The transparency sheets are labeled with both a region and a sector: in this case, “Caprica Region, SECT OEL”. More text fills the bottom of the label: “Battlestar Galactica Starchart…”
Several panels of physical keys and low-resolution displays ring the board, but we never see any characters interacting with them. They do not appear to change during major events or during shifts in the ship status.
The best use of these small displays would be to access reference data with a quick search or wikipedia-style database. Given what we see in the show, it is likely that it was just intended as fuigetry.
Charts and maps are an old interface that has been well developed over the course of human history. Modern ships still use paper charts and maps to track their current location as a backup to GPS.
Given the Galactica’s mission to stay active even in the face of complete technological superiority of the opponent, a map-based backup to the Dradis makes sense in spite of the lack of detailed information it might need to provide. It is best as, and should be, a worst-case backup.
Here, the issue becomes the 3-dimensional space that the Galactica inhabits. The maps do an excellent job of showing relationships in a two dimensional plane, but don’t represent the ‘above’ and ‘below’ at all.
In those situations, perhaps something like a large fish tank metaphor might work better, but wouldn’t allow for quick plotting of distance and measurements by hand. Instead, perhaps something more like the Pin Table from the 2000 X-Men movie that could be operated by hand:
It would provide a shake-resistant, physical, no-electricity needed 3-D map of the surrounding area. Markups could be easily accomplished with a sticky-note-like flag that could attach to the pins.
Leeloo learns about the facts of the human race which she is destined to save through an online encyclopedia available to her in many places: in Cornelius’ home, the spaceship to Fhloston Paradise, and aboard Zorg’s ship. Three modes are seen for it. Today we discuss the first mode, which is just play-and-watch.
When we first see her using the (unnamed) encyclopedia, she is simply watching four columns of words quickly scroll by. The words are arranged alphabetically, top-to-bottom before continuing to the next column. There is a large, blinking, lower-case letter reversed out of a white square in the lower left. Near the middle of the screen, a thick bracket emphasizes four of the words from the screen and red lines connects each of the words to a large image on the right side of the screen. The words and pictures fly by at a rate that’s impossible for us mere humans to follow, but Cornelius assures David that she”s ‘learning our history…the last 5,000 years she’s missed. She’s been asleep for quite a while, you know.”
This mode is all passive. When in the scene Leeloo goes to grab a turkey from the kitchen to bring back and eat, the screen is still moving with no one in front of it. We see a menu of capital letters, and a selection moving from “A” to “M”, by itself.
The Tyranny of Pause
Here I’m going to have to break the usual stance with which I review interfaces. That is, I usually treat each interface as if it was perfectly as it should be in the world of the movie or TV show, trying to willfully ignore its speculative nature. (That’s how we can make it relevant to our real world work.) But here, there’s just too much that’s broken in the content to make any sense. You only notice it when you slow the movie down to read and examine the screens, so this is totally unfair. But then again, the DVD format had been in the world for two years by the time The Fifth Element came out, so there’s not a great excuse for playback technology. They could presume it would eventually be paused.
First off, the words in the lists are repeated. The first column is identical to the third. The second is identical to the fourth. I can’t imagine a good reason why this would help a reader. I was hoping maybe there was some autostereogram thing going on, but no. It just adds noise.
Secondly, the vast majority of images have little to do with the words to which they’re connected. “Me” points to a halved cantaloupe filled with blackberries. (See the image above.) “Maunder” points to an image of a woman’s softly parted, lipsticked lips. What on earth is Leeloo meant to learn from that? (Also I think it’s high time we bring back maunder into common usage.)
Worse, the images repeat. So the same picture of a chimpanzee connects to both “meadow” and “matriarch.” The same picture of a nose (flipped horizontally once) connects to “nav(vv?)y,” “nefarious,” and “negate.”
Also the same word may appear multiple times, connected to different pictures. “Maw” points once to a mouth, which is sensible, but once to a full-body portrait of a model in a little black dress. I’m all for polysemy and homonymy, but this just makes no sense.
Only once does the connection make absolute sense, as “Napoleon” points to François Gérard’s 1804 portrait of “Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of France, at Malmaison.”
Now I understand the tough challenge the interface designers faced: They probably had zero time, the damned thing had to look…well…encyclopedic, it had to make Leeloo look like a learning machine, no one had the budget or time to create new media for all these entries. Plus Larry Lessig wouldn’t found the Creative Commons organization for four years later. But…still.
Sometimes the words are arbitrarily cut off, as in “mayonnais” and “masturbat.” (Both the prurient-minded and those prone to conspiracies about subliminal influence may note that the word “masturbat~” appears three times, twice as a full word, and once cut off in this way.)
So, in short, unless she’s studying the Dada Encyclopedia, this display just makes no sense.
Even if the images didn’t repeat, the words didn’t repeat, the images made sense for the words, and words appeared fully spelled out, it’s a ridiculous display for what Leeloo is trying to do. At best, this might be able to teach her the written words for some concrete things. But even this is doubtful. How does she know that “Napoleon” as a word means a particular individual rather than the word for a painted portrait, or the name of the uniform being depicted? Without going too far into history or learning theory, we can say that Leeloo would need exposure to some propositional language to understand history as interrelated events occurring across time, and an alphabetical list of words and pictures just isn’t enough.