In one of the story threads, Matt uses an interface as part of his day job at Smartelligence to wrangle an AI that is the cloned a mind of a client named Greta. Matt has three tasks in this role.
He has to explain to her that she is an artificial intelligence clone of a real world person’s mind. This is psychologically traumatic, as she has decades of memories as if she were a real person with a real body and full autonomy in the world.
He has to explain how she will do her job: Her responsibilities and tools.
He has to “break” her will and coerce her to faithfully serve her master—who is the the real-world Greta. (The idea is that since virtual Greta is an exact copy, she understands real Greta’s preferences and can perform personal assistant duties flawlessly.)
The AI is housed in a small egg-shaped device with a single blue light camera lens. The combination of the AI and the egg-shaped device is called “The Cookie.” Why it is not called The Egg is a mystery left for the reader, though I hope it is not just for the “Cookie Monster” joke dropped late in the episode. Continue reading →
In the world of “White Christmas”, everyone has a networked brain implant called Zed-Eyes that enables heads-up overlays onto vision, personalized audio, and modifications to environmental sounds. The control hardware is a thin metal circle around a metal click button, separated by a black rubber ring. People can buy the device with different color rings, as we see alternately see metal, blue, and black versions across the episode.
To control the implant, a person slides a finger (thumb is easiest) around the rim of a tiny touch device. Because it responds to sliding across its surface, let’s say the device must use a sensor similar to the one used in The Entire History of You (2011) or the IBM Trackpoint,
A thumb slide cycles through a carousel menu. Sliding can happen both clockwise and counterclockwise. It even works through gloves.
The button selects or executes the selected action. The complete list of carousel menu options we see in the episode are: Search, Camera, Music, Mail, Call, Magnify, Block, Map. The particular options change across scenes, so it is context-aware or customizable. We will look at some of the particular functions in later posts. For now, let’s discuss the “platform” that is Zed-eyes.Continue reading →
The transition from Beijing to the Newark copyshop is more involved. After he travels around a bit, he realizes he needs to be looking back in Newark. He “rewinds” using a pull gesture and sees the copyshop’s pyramid. First there is a predominantly blue window that unfolds as if it were paper.
And then the copyshop initial window expands. Like the Beijing hotel, this is a floor plan view, but unlike the hotel it stays two dimensional. It appears that cyberspace works like the current world wide web, with individual servers for each location that can choose what appearance to present to visitors.
Johnny again selects data records, but not with a voice command. The first transition is a window that not only expands but spins as it does so, and makes a strange jump at the end from the centre to the upper left.
Once again Johnny uses the two-handed expansion gesture to see the table view of the records.Continue reading →
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 Battlestar Galactica is a twisting and interlocking series of large hallways that provide walking access to all parts of the ship. The hallways are poorly labeled, and are almost impossible for someone without experience to navigate. Seriously, look at these images and see if you can tell where you are, or where you’re supposed to head to find…well, anything.
Billy (a young political assistant steeped in modern technology) finds this out after losing the rest of his tour group.
The hallways lack even the most basic signage that we expect in our commercial towers and office buildings. We see no indication of what deck a given corridor is on, what bulkhead a certain intersection is located at, or any obvious markings on doorways.
We do see small, cryptic alphanumerics near door handles:
Based off of current day examples, the alphanumeric would mark the bulkhead the door was at, the level it was on, and which section it was in. This would let anyone who knew the system figure out where they were on the ship.Continue reading →
At every major intersection, and at the entrance to each room, the Battlestar Galactica has very large pressure doors. These doors each have a handle and a large wheel on each side. During regular operation crewmembers open the door with the handle and close it firmly, but do not spin the wheel. Occasionally, we see crew using the wheel as a leverage point to close the door.
Sealing it off
We never directly see a crewmember spin the wheel on the door after it closes. While Chief Tyrol is acting as head of damage control, he orders all bulkheads in a section of the ship sealed off. This order is beyond the typical door closing that we witness day-to-day.
This implies that the door has three modes: Open, Closed, and Sealed.
Crewmembers could use the door most of their day in an open or closed mode, where an easy pull of the handle unlatches the door and allows them to enter or leave quickly. In an emergency, a closed door could be sealed by spinning the valve wheel on one side of the door.
As with other parts of the Galactica, the doors are completely manual, and cannot be activated remotely. (Because Cylon hacking made them go network-less.) Someone has to run up to the door in an emergency and seal it off.
One worry is that, because there is a valve wheel on both sides, an untrained crewmember might panic and try to unseal the door by turning it in the wrong direction. This would endanger the entire crew.
The other worry is that the valve spins along a single axis (we see no evidence either way during the show), requiring the crew to know which side of the door they were on to seal it against a vacuum. “Righty Tighty, Lefty Loosey” would fail in this instance, and might cause hesitation or accidental unsealing in an actual emergency.
Ideally, the doors would have wheels that spun identically on either side, so that a clockwise spin always sealed the door, and a counter-clockwise spin always unsealed it.
Current water-tight doors have two sides, the ‘important’ side and the ‘unimportant’ side. The important side faces towards the ‘center’ of the vessel, or the core of the larger block of the ship, and can be sealed off quickly from that side with a wheel and heavy ‘dogs’.
Weathertight doors have a handle-latch on both sides that is connected (much like a doorknob), and can seal/unseal the door from either side.
If there is a technical limitation to that mechanism (unlikely, but possible), then a large and obvious graphic on the door (a clockwise or counterclockwise arrow) could serve to remind the crew which direction of turn sealed the door. In this case, sealing the door is the primary action to call out because it is the action done under a panic situation, and the action most easily forgotten in the heat of the moment.
Otherwise, the doors could be a danger to the crew: the crew on the ‘safe’ side could seal the door against depressurization, but crew on the ‘unsafe’ side might try to unseal it to save themselves in a panic.
Air pressure might keep the door properly closed in this instance, but it is still a risk.
We see during the damage control incident that the doors are quickly closed and sealed by the crew, even in an emergency, making the rest of the ship airtight. This either shows that the doors are effective at their job, or the crew is very well trained for such a situation.
Like the rest of the Galactica, the technology relies on people to work. A couple hints or minor tweaks to that technology could make the crew’s lives much easier without putting them at danger from the Cylons or the empty void of space.
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.
To get Jennifer into her home, the police take her to the front door of her home. They place her thumb on a small circular reader by the door. Radial LEDs circle underneath her thumb for a moment as it reads. Then a red light above the reader turns off and a green light turns on. The door unlocks and a synthesized voice says, Welcome home, Jennifer!
Similarly to the Thumbdentity, a multifactor authentication would be much more secure. The McFly family is struggling, so you might expect them to have substandard technology, but that the police are using something similar casts that in doubt.
When we first see the HUD, Tony is donning the Iron Man mask. Tony asks, JARVIS, “You there?” To which JARVIS replies, “At your service sir.” Tony tells him to Engage the heads-up display, and we see the HUD initialize. It is a dizzying mixture of blue wireframe motion graphics. Some imply system functions, such as the reticle that pinpoints Tonys eye. Most are small dashboard-like gauges that remain small and in Tonys peripheral vision while the information is not needed, and become larger and more central when needed. These features are catalogued in another post, but we learn about them through two points-of-view: a first-person view, which shows us what Tony’s sees as if we were there, donning the mask in his stead, and second-person view, which shows us Tony’s face overlaid against a dark background with floating graphics.
This post is about that first-person view. Specifically it’s about the visual design and the four awarenesses it displays.
In the Augmented Reality chapter of Make It So, I identified four types of awareness seen in the survey for Augmented Reality displays:
The Iron Man HUD illustrates all four and is a useful framework for describing and critiquing the 1st-person view. Continue reading →
After Hawkeye is enthralled by Loki, agent Coulson has to call agent Romanoff in from the field, mid-mission. While he awaits her to extract herself from a situation, he idly glances at case file 242-56 which consists of a large video of Barton and Romanoff mid-combat, and overview profiles of the two agents. A legend in the upper right identifies this as STRIKE TEAM: DELTA, and a label at the top reads ABIDJAN OPERATION. There is some animated fuigetry on the periphery of the video, and some other fuigetry in windows that are occluded by the case file.