The Fifth Element Movie Night Pre-Show

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For those who missed the first sci-fi interfaces Movie Night, my friend Reed stepped up and brought a multi-camera setup to the event and edited in post so you could vicariously see what it was like. Watch above, but if you’re more interested in reading, the transcript (edited because the messiness of the spoken word) appears below.

[0:00] INTRO

Hey, good evening. Thanks for showing up. This is actually a wild hair idea that occurred to me in the shower about three and a half weeks ago. My name is Chris Noessel. Every year for the past five years I’ve hosted a private showing in my home, and I thought, "How on Earth and I going to cram all the people I want to invite into my small living room this year?" I tried to work out the logistics and just failed. But fortunately I was able to contact The New Parkway and they said, "We love this sort of thing. And we have a slot open. And we have the film pre-licensed." So for all those reasons a big round of applause to The New Parkway.

[0:52] THE PROJECT

So I’m going to do one plug really quickly, if you’re not familiar. You’re here because you love the movie. I’m going to tell you a little about the project that this evening came about from. About six years ago my coauthor Nathan Shedroff approached me with this cool idea about a book. He noticed that the Motorola Star-Tac phone was surprisingly like the Star Trek communicator, and thought, "Hey, there’s probably a connection here." So over the course of about six years we collected every sci-fi interface that we could in an online database. We tagged that cloud with a database and wrote a book about the results. That book was published in 2012. We just went through our second printing where all of the errata (that many people here may have pointed out) is now corrected. In fact, one of the awards for the trivia contest is a copy of that second [printing].

[01:45] INTERFACE TRIVIA!

So, that’s what that project is about. Since just before the release of the book I’ve been hosting a website called scifiinterfaces.com where I’m slowly releasing that database that we built up and adding a few other things, so it’s actually quite a lot of nerdery all in one place.

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So I want to start up the evening. What we’re going to do is some Fifth Element interface trivia. What I need is 10 volunteers…

[No spoilers from the transcript! Answers to the trivia are in the video. If you want to try the questions yourself, put your answers in the comments before watching it, though all the awards have been given out.]

  1. Why is March 18 Fifth Element Day?
  2. How many cigarettes is Korben allowed each day?
  3. How many points does Korben Dallas have on his license when he gets in the taxi, and for extra credit, how does he know?
  4. What Big Label appears on this interface in the film?
    ZSA_blank
  5. What Big Label appears on this interface in the film?
    fifthe-attackdetection-008_blank
  6. What Big Label appears on this interface in the film?
    NF_blank
  7. What is Leeloo looking at when we see this close up of her eye?
    thefifthelement-eye
  8. What word is repeated three times in the encyclopedia?
  9. This image is associated with which entry in the encyclopedia?
    chimpanzee
  10. This image is associated with which entry in the encyclopedia?
    Napoleon
  11. Fill in the blank "This is a police patrol. This is not an exercise. Can you please spread your legs and _______________."
  12. In the pilot of sci-fi university, the weapon against ultimate evil is an example of what two interface principles?
  13. Can you name any of the four things that the design of the ultimate weapon tests for?
  14. What does it mean that the ultimate evil approaches Earth in exactly the right bearing and at exactly the right time to be stopped by a spinning weapon that cannot be aimed?

[21:06] SUCH INTERFACE

As you may have surmised, the blog covers individual interfaces in movies. I’m going to talk very briefly about one that appears in this film.

One of the reasons why I picked The Fifth Element to watch annually is that it has a number of great interfaces. On the blog there are 53, some of which contain multiple interfaces. It’s chock-full of interface goodness. We’re going to talk about this particular one. Note that this isn’t one of the great ones, this is one of the ones that could use improvement.

[22:14] 4 A DAY

So let’s take a little tour. When Dallas wakes up we see that his apartment sort of "comes on" after his alarm, and one of the things he does is he walks to this machine to get his cigarettes. At the very bottom it shows what his goal is. "TO QUIT IS MY GOAL." (That’s what the shirt says.) At the top is kind of a reminder. It says, "Quit smoking!" With "4 Refill" and "4™ a day." On the right side is this utterly inexplicable LCD display. I think those "1s" are meant to represent the cigarettes, but I’m not certain. And I think in the center is a huge, overblown "there are four left." Why on earth would you need that, when you can glance to the left and look? And the last thing. Is that the temprature of the cigarettes? Is it important that they stay at 27.5 degrees? Really, that makes no sense at all.

And then this is the interface panel that’s he’s got, the buttons that he has to push, and they make more sense. You’ll see Korben only presses the bottom one and it’s kind of useless.

Audience member: It’s a tiny humidor! [This is brilliant, whoever suggested it. But I looked, and it’s too warm!]

To explain why this is good, we have to dip down very briefly into persuasive design. Has anybody here every studied persuasive design?

[23:19] HOT SIGNALS IN THE PATH (poorly explained)

Awesome. Did you study under B.J. Fogg? B.J. talks about a principle called "putting the hot signal on the path." What that means is, when you are trying to provide a trigger for a user to get them to recognize an opportunity to change their own behavior, it needs to be a hot signal. Hot in this sense is one that gets the user’s attention readily. And that’s one of the problems with this interface. There are signals all over it to tell Korben, "Hey, you don’t want to keep smoking." There’s a surgeon general’s warning in the back. There’s that reminder of the goal.

But we also know that humans have a psychological capacity to habituate. You see something a number of times and you’ll stop seeing it anymore. (The other thing is that if the surgeon general’s warning is meant to persuade anyone, it’s behind four glass vials where it absolutely cannot be read. It’s a piece of misery.

I have one story to tell to illustrate the hot signal in the path. Back when I had a small apartment in Houston, we had an air conditioner that was located in the attic. It had a drain pan that actually dripped through a hole in the ceiling directly onto the head of the shower-er. That was freezing. I hated this thing. I thought, "Screw that." I took the hole and moved it to the side. (Oh wow you can’t see me there. I disappeared when that happened.)

This seemed to solve my problem. I had no cold water, I could enjoy my showers. But what ultimately occurred was that the water flooded the drain pan above me. My short term goal of not being frozen to death was actually a bad thing to design for. I should have left it above me because it was a hot signal in the path. (The irony there I hope you’ll appreciate.) The signal was in a place where I would encounter it, in a place the designers know I would be. And that’s what hot signals on the path are.

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When we take that same principle and apply it to the interface, we want to stop the habituation by having this [the goal statement] be an e-ink display that changes every day. And [the surgeon general’s warning] be an LED screen that changes and doesn’t show text. You can’t read text there, through a glass vial. What you want to see back there is an image. And I borrowed one of the images from the Australian cigarette packages that are really gory and really gross and make you think twice. "What the heck am I about to smoke?"

[26:01] WRAP UP [Leaving off the transcript]

Okey doke. That’s all I’m going to leave you with. Because a) there’s beer and b) there’s a cool movie to watch. But if you dig this kind of thinking, there are four places you can get it.

[26:19] MOAR

[26:41] 3 quick announcements:

  • I have Movie Night shirts up at http://26253.spreadshirt.com/ (What’s that red cross-bar for? The site was down at the time.)
  • If you’re interested in trying some future thinking, come to Cooper’s Design the Future class, which I’ll be teaching.
  • Stick around for a post-show preview of the next sci-fi university
  • OK, we’ll see that start in about a minute. You guys enjoy the show.

Fifth Element tees

overview

Major thanks to everyone who came out and joined me for the first ever scifiinterfaces.com movie night at The New Parkway in Oakland! It was a sold-out show, and while there were a few glitches, folks are telling me they had a great time and are looking forward to the next one. There will be a more detailed report once the pre-show video comes out. But in the meantime, this: If you didn’t win the trivia contest or weren’t able to attend, you can still get your hands on the “movie night” t-shirts I debuted there.

Allshirts

Head on over to the spreadshirt shop. It’s ugly (with the default CSS). It doesn’t have a custom URL or anything. It only has 5 products at the moment. But hey, that’s all part of the charm if you’d like to wear your sci-fi interface nerdiness with pride.

http://26253.spreadshirt.com/

P.S. I have no idea why the women’s KEEP CLEAR tee is not appearing in orange since I designed it like the Men’s tee, but I have a request with Spreadshirt now. Hopefully it’ll be fixed soon.

Berlin?

I’m thinking the Bay Area has an appetite for maybe two movie nights a year (let me know if I’m wrong) but I’d also love to try this in Berlin. Do you (or someone you know) know of a cinema in Berlin like the New Parkway that might be interested in my replicating this there?

Fifth Element Day at the New Parkway is on!

9 P.M. Tuesday, 18 MAR 2014, $10, New Parkway Theater

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Thanks to the fast action of connections on social media, we have the requisite numbers to cover the licensing costs to show The Fifth Element on 18 March at the New Parkway!

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You’ll notice on the original page as well as this one that sales are being routed to Brown Paper Tickets. That’s the ticket sales service that New Parkway likes to work with. If you were one of the VIPs who ordered through trycelery.com, look for an email in your inbox over the next few days that confirms your name will be on a VIP Will-Call List at the door, cross-referenced with the email account you provided.

Pre-show

I’m certainly going to introduce myself and the movie to begin. Then I’ll offer up a little trivia game about the interfaces in the film. (Hint: This very blog might be the best place to shop for clues.) The reward for most correct answers will be a copy of Make It So 2nd edition print (with all those pesky errata from the 1st edition fixed.)

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Stretch Goal

If we make it to 100 people, I’ll try to get my hands on one of the replica prop kits for a multipass, and offer that as another prize. Tell your friends and family and get us to 100 people!

If we make it past 100, and get to the max capacity of 140, I’ll come up with some other, even crazier stretch goal.

Scifiinterfaces content

After the trivia, there are a couple of things I could do. But I’ll put it to you, blog readers: What sounds best?

If there’s some other idea you’ve got to make this first scifiinterfaces movie night more fun than a Mangalore concert, drop it in the comments. I’ll check back occasionally on results, and finalize things sometime as we near the event.

Seriously, this is going to be supergreen.

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Fifth Element Day at the New Parkway?

9 P.M. Tuesday, 18 MAR 2014, $10

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Regular readers of the blog will recall that Korben Dallas’ Busy Day starts when he wakes up on 18 March 2263. This is also Director Luc Besson’s birthday, natch. Let’s celebrate this most incredible sci-fi film (with its most incredible interfaces) with a viewing on that most auspicious of days.

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If we get enough people, we can get the rights to view it at the New Parkway Cinema in Oakland and enjoy the film the way it was meant to be enjoyed: With a bunch of other sci-fi nerds, on the big silver screen, with couches, beanbags, food, and a full bar (remember, Luc’s French.)

newparkway

How many is enough people?

At $10 tickets, we need at least 50 to secure the rights and have the show. More than that and we get to thank New Parkway for working with me on such short notice. Much more than that and I can have a trivia contest with prizes. And if anyone’s interested, I could either play the Fifth-Element-centric pilot of Sci-Fi University beforehand, or maybe even a live, short-but-nerdy review of one of the other interfaces that appear everywhere in the film. I’ll get feedback on the site once it’s going.

When is the cutoff date?

There’s not a lot of time! We need that 50 as soon as possible so we can secure the cinema and the rights, etc. Ideally we could get that number by end of day today, 19 February. But that’s not a ton of time. So the final cutoff will be this Friday, 21 February 2014 at 4 P.M. Pacific Standard Time

Buy your tickets at Brown Paper Tickets. If we can’t get at least 50 people, you’re not charged. But once we get those 50, the thing’s happening, the sale goes through, and we let Korben Dallas and Leeloo save the universe one more time.

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UPDATE1: My math was off by half. We need 50 for the licensing. I’ve changed the above, and if you’re wondering, it used to say 25.

UPDATE2: We made the numbers! It’s on!

The Ultimate Weapon

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The most interesting interface in the film belongs to the Ultimate Weapon, because it raises such unusual challenges to interface design.

The Design Challenge

According to the movie, the Ultimate Evil arrives every 5000 years, and this is the only time the weapon needs to be fired. (Its prior firing would be around 2737 B.C.E., and if it was on Earth before then, in prehistory.) Its designers must ensure that it will be usable to users separated by around 250 (human) generations. Given such an expanse of time, how can a designer ensure that any necessary inputs will be available between potential uses? What materials will survive that long to ensure structural and functional viability? What written instructions can survive the vast changes in language and cultural contexts? How can you ensure that spoken instructions or principles will be passed down accurately from generation to generation? Presuming some lossy transmission, what clues can you give in the interface itself as to the intended use?

Mondoshawan physiology

Fortunately, the Mondoshawan physiology is not a substantial problem. In their suits they are still similarly-sized, bilateral, upright bipeds with a head where sensory organs are clustered at the top, and, emerging from the tops of their torsos, prehensile arms at the end of which are manipulator digits. This solves a great deal of what could be difficult interspecies issues. Imagine, for contrast, trying to design an interface usable by intelligent versions of both butterflies and cephalopods. Not easy. But an interface for two humanoid species: Much less difficult.

How to ensure the interface material lasts?

Certainly, the system must maintain some physical integrity over time. Passing over the creative license of “advanced alien technologies,” we see that the material for the weapon is quite-long lasting, i.e. stone and in the case of the key, metal. Additionally, the weapon is kept in a temple in the desert, a non-volatile environment suited to preserving such materials.

TheFifthElement-temple

There are materials for the stones that could last longer and be more resistant to damage, like metal or industrial ceramics, but we do not know anything about the provenance of the weapon, and whether such materials were available.

How to hide the weapon from malefactors?

In the words of Cornelius, an evil person could stand on the platform and activate the weapon to “turn light to dark.” No one wants that to happen. The Mondoshawans hide the weapon in the Egyptian temple, and take pains to carefully conceal the presence of the door to the weapon room and its keyhole. Ordinarily Mondoshawans keep the key to the door of the room which houses the weapon to themselves offworld, but when they take the stones for protection, they leave the key with a member of a sect that worships the weapon, ensuring that the key is passed down through the generations along with the weapon’s instructions.

How to ensure the instructions persist?

Even with durable materials, if the use of the weapon isn’’t so completely intuitive as to be automatic, the instructions on how to activate it must endure transmission through time, across the lives of generations of people (and Mondoshawans). In this case, the instruction set is fairly simple; one must have access to “the” five elements for the weapon to work. Four are the familiar classical alchemical elements of earth, air, fire, and water. These are represented in the movie by four patterns of lines. The lines have subtle variations that reflect physical properties of that element. Earth was flat horizontal lines. Water was wavy horizontal lines at the base. Air was wavy horizontal lines at the top. Fire was vertical wavy lines.

The simplicity, replicability, and memetic nature of this part of the instruction set is demonstrated as we see the symbol repeated in a number of places: on the walls of the pyramid, on the sides of the stones, on the pedestals to which each stone fits, on Cornelius’’ belt buckle, and as a mark on Leeloo’’s skin. Had these symbols been more complex in nature, there would have been more risk that they would have shifted and evolved, like language does, beyond recognition and therefore use as a clue to the weapon’s function.

The instructions are also kept alive through the ages via myth and religious fervor. The characters Cornelius and David belong to a sect devoted to the Ultimate Weapon. This is clever cultural design. Humans have historically demonstrated a desire to worship, and the Mondoshawans have taken advantage of this, providing the Ultimate Weapon a group of people wholly dedicated to its preservation regardless of whether or not their generation is the one to see it fire. The rites, rituals, and artifacts of this religion that act as a backup for the instructions on firing the Ultimate Weapon, as we see when Cornelius tries to explain it all to the President.

The transmission media of memes and religious fervor are not—as we see in the film—perfect. Language and culture are lossy media. But they do get the characters close enough so that they can figure out the rest on their own.

How to make sure it can be figured out?

The weapon is initialized by placing the sacred stones on the proper pedestals. But which stones go on which pedestal? Fortunately, anyone with a visual or tactile sense can match the right stone to the right pedestal by matching the pattern. Furthermore, since the stones and their fitting are almost triangular, it is easy to tell how they should be seated. See the pilot of Sci-Fi University for more about these affordances and constraints.

SciFiU-5E-title

The main challenge within this part of the bigger challenge is the spans of time involved. Given 5,000 years between firings, entire cultures, countries, technologies, and languages come and go in that time. How many people alive now are fluent in languages from 5 millennia past? You have to use mechanisms that don’t depend on culture, technology, or language. Physical affordances and constraints are a fine tool for these reasons.

How to let users know they’re on the right track?

When a little bit of the required element is provided to the placed stones, there is immediate feedback as small rectangles open just a bit near the tops. It is this partway state that indicates to the protagonists that, even though they haven’t completely supplied enough material, they are on the right track. This clue gives them enough of a signal that they continue trying to deduce control of the interface.

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What activation materials to use?

The stones require some small amount of each element to be supplied to their topmost surface to become active. For three of the four (earth, air, water), these elements are in abundance here on Earth.

To consider the fourth, fire, takes us to strategic questions about the design.

Why this design?

It’s possible that the design of the weapon is constrained by some unknown cosmogenic power source in the stones. <handwaving>It’s mystical physics that requires that there be 4 stones and 4 pillars and smooches in the center.</handwaving> But it is of course of more use to us to imagine that it wasn’t, but some deliberate design. Which leads me to ask why wasn’t it a single big button? Well, I can see five effects this particular design has.

1. It allows you to disable the weapon

A major part of the plot involves the fact that the stones—keys to operating the machine—have been removed from Earth to keep them safe. This proves to be a major complication and a minor mystery to the protagonists, but is in fact one of main features of the weapon. Much of it is architectural and would be very difficult to move. By adding activation keys, the Mondoshawans ensured that they could disable it if necessary.

2. It tests for environmental stewardship

If three of the activation elements were not available: earth, air, and water, it would raise serious issues about the human caretakers of the planet. Do they stand on a scorched earth? Is their air ruined? Have they let the water of Earth, like what happened on Mars, evaporate into space? Any of these scenarios raise serious doubts about whether life on the planet is worth saving. Or is there to save.

3. It tests for cultural stewardship

Unlike the other elements, fire isn’t as abundant. In pre-cultural Earth, it was an accident of geothermal activity and lightning. To be able to control it to a level that it can be applied to the stone speaks of a fundamental level of cultural and technological advancement. If humans have not kept stewardship of their culture well enough to be able to control fire, it again raises the question of whether they are worth saving.

The key to the weapon room similarly tests for cultural stewardship. It looks like a fragile thing, made of thin perforated metal. Having a reverant group treat it as a holy artifact ensures that it will not get crushed or rusted, and in the process lose access to the room that contains the weapon.

4. It tests for basic intelligence

The affordances and constraints that help the characters position the stones correctly require a level of basic, intelligence as individuals. Can they do pattern matching? Do they understand simple physics? This isn’t the strongest of tests, but I’m pretty had humans devolved to primates by this point or distracted by constant war, they’d have been screwed.

5. It tests for a capacity for love

The “fifth element” (ignoring wu xing and similar actual 5-element philosophies) in this case is love. In the film Korben must overcome his reticence to confess his love for Leeloo. When he does, she realizes that humanity—including its capacity for war—are worth saving, and the weapon fires. Love is a big word of course, so it’s not clear whether familial, friendly, platonic, or even purely sexual love would suffice, but perhaps it doesn’t matter. The designers wanted to make sure that humanity still has some capacity for feeling intense care toward another. If not, why bother saving them?

It’s made a bit dubious because it’s specifically for the love of an “ultimate warrior,” a “perfect being.” Leeloo looks very much like a very fit, pretty example of one of a human, who has shown very human capacities for joy, pain, fear, delight, &c. It’s not that hard of a test for Korben to love her, except, to overcome his own sense of awkwardness and humility and openness to rejection (in front of a small crowd, no less.) If she had looked like a Mangalore it would have been a more difficult—and more telling—test of the capacity for altruistic love, but perhaps that’s not the point.

These five effects seem like pretty good reasons to design the interface to this weapon in this particular way. In total, they test to make sure there’s a humanity there worth saving. And fortunately for humanity in 2263, Korben (and the culture that produced him) prove just enough of a match.

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As if that wasn’t enough, bear with me for just two more bits of nerdery about the weapon. These are a bit extraneous to the interface, but derived from study of the interface, and so may be of note to readers.

1. We can’t ignore the fact that the Ultimate Evil plummets toward the Earth in a straight line. A straight line, that is, that puts it directly in the path of the ultimate weapon, which fires a perfectly straight line. And recall that the weapon is on a planet that’s orbiting around a star, and precessing its rotational axis. This is too slim a chance to be coincidence. It stands to reason that this is not, as Cornelius says, a sentient evil bent on ending “all life” (which would just veer a few degrees out of the way to safety), but part of the same system as the weapon, designed to identify and tempt the worst of people, i.e. Zorg, and try and thwart these aspects of humanity that are ultimately tested. If that’s the case, and the Mondoshawans installed the weapon, did they, by extension, install the Ultimate Evil as well? Is this some sort of “invisible fence” meant to keep humanity in check, and destroy it if it ever evolves for the worse?

2. Many of these same issues have been addressed in the real world by the designers of containers of radioactive waste (the danger of which persists between 10,000 and 1,000,000 years) and, more positively, the the Long Now Foundation working on its main project, the Millennium Clock. For those unfamiliar with this project, it is a prospective, large-scale clock that once built, will chime every thousand years. The clock mechanism and function is intended to last for 10,000 years. The Long Now foundation is faced with similar long-term design challenges and have come to some similar conclusions as the designers for the film. The clock will be made of Bronze Age materials and technology, and it will be situated in the desert. The clock will largely be self-maintaining, but the Foundation is also developing a Rosetta Wheel containing many, many examples of existing human language, useful for decoding written instructions. The idea itself has many elements that ensure its persistence as a meme, being simple, distinct, and a powerful embodiment of an important message about the value of long-term thinking. The Long Now Foundation was begun in 01996, the year prior to the release of The Fifth Element. I am a huge fan of the Foundation and its initiatives, and I encourage readers to read further to learn more.

Sci-fi University Pilot

How do you ensure that a complicated weapon can be fired by people hundreds or even thousands of years in the future?

Sci-fi University critically examines interfaces in sci-fi that illustrate core design concepts. In this six-minute pilot episode, Christopher discusses how the Ultimate Weapon Against Evil brilliantly and subtly embodies the design concepts of affordances and constraints.

This is a pilot, to see if folks like the format. So please leave your thoughts in the comments, and if enough folks dig it—and if I run across other interfaces that bear such explication—I’ll do more sometime in the future. If you’d like to view it at a larger size, check it out on Vimeo. Happy viewing!

Mangalore Bomb

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Sadly for Zorg, just after he deactivates his bomb, a fallen Mangalore warrior remotely activates his own bomb in Plavalaguna’s suite. The remote control is made from a combination lock. The Mangalore twists the dial to the right numbers, and on reaching the last number, a red LED lights in the center. In the diva’s suite, the box that secretly housed the bomb opens, and the bomb rises like a small metallic ziggurat, accentuated in places with red LEDs. A red, 7-segment countdown timer begins ticking down its final 5 seconds.

Aggression

Mangalores are warlike, as in they really like war. They breathe war. They sleep war. They eat war for breakfast, then poop war, then root around in their couches for war scraps and snack on that. The detonation device isn’t very sophisticated, and that’s just fine by Mangalores. If a Mangalore declared a Design major instead of War in college, they’d have been killed on the spot. This device is perfect for a species that just wants to grab something cheap and convenient, make a few modifications, and get to the boom.

We don’t see a deactivation mechanism. And while you can imagine that a nice safety would be to deactivate if the dial drifted more than, say, 5 clicks from the final activation number, Mangalores wouldn’t have it. They’d “liberate” your mother’s homeland merely for having suggesting it.

If I had to improve it in any way, it’s that it places a burden on memory, and there’s not a lot of indication that Mangalores excel in the thinking skills department, c.f. warlike. Do they have the capacity to memorize a series of numbers in order? And it is easy to recall the series in the middle of a war zone? If not, what would be better? They have their weapons with them nearly at all times, so how about a little glowing, red button on the forestock?

Ha. Joke’s on you, Mangalores. As we know from earlier in the movie, you couldn’t resist pressing it, long before you made it to ocean liners. I think if you’re that warlike and stupid, this would be best for everyone.

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Fhloston evacuation

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When Fhloston Paradise’s bomb alarms finally go off (a full 15:06 after Zorg’s bomb actually starts. WTH, Fhloston?) four shipwide systems help evacuate the ship.

First, a klaxon is heard on a public address system across the ship. A recorded female voice calmly announces that…

This is a type A alert. For security reasons the hotel must be evacuated. Please proceed calmly to the lifeboats located in the main hallways.

This voice continues to speak a warning countdown, repeating the remaining time every minute, and then when there’s less than a minute at 15 second intervals, and each of the last 10 seconds.

Second, in the main hallway, small, rows of red beacon lights emerge out of the floor and begin flashing and blinking. They repeatedly flash in order to point the direction of the lifeboats.

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Third, in the main hallway large arrows on the floor and “LIFEBOAT” lettering illuminate green to point travelers towards ingress points for individual lifeboats.

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Fourth, the lifeboats themselves eject from the ship to get the passengers far from danger.

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Awesome

  • The voice warning is a trope, but a trope for a reason. For visually impaired guests and people whose attention is focused on, you know, escape, the audio will still help them keep tabs on the time they have left.
  • The racing lights provide a nice directionality (a similar interface would have helped Prometheus).
  • The arrows and beacons require no language skills to comprehend.

Awful

  • The voice warning and the “LIFEBOAT” signs do require language to comprehend. They couldn’t have used Running Man?
  • You know when’s a crappy time to add trip hazards to the floor? When a herd of panicked humans are going to be running over it. Seriously. There is no excuse for this.
  • The beacons and the arrows should be the same color. Green is the ISO standard for exit, so while we’re moving the beacon lights to the ceiling where they belong, we can swap them out for some #33cc00 beacons.
  • The green arrows at first seem badly placed as it’s difficult to see when there’s a crowd of people, but then you realize that when the room is empty, people will see and follow them. People in a crowd will just follow whatever direction the horde is currently going, and seeing the arrows is unnecessary. But in a light crowd, people will get a glimpse of the arrow and become stressed out over an occluded, potentially life-saving signal or worse, get trampled to death trying to stop and read it to make sure everyone is going the right way, so ultimately awful. Put that up on the ceiling or high on the walls, too. Because people genuinely panic.

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