Dat glaive: Teleconferencing

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When his battalion of thralls are up and harvesting Vespene Gas working to stabilize the Tesseract, Loki sits down to check in with his boss’ two-thumbed assistant, an MCU-recurring weirdo who goes unnamed in the movie, but which the Marvel wiki assures me is called The Other.

To get into the teleconference, Loki sits down on the ground with the glaive in his right hand and the blue stone roughly in front of his heart. He closes his eyes, straightens his back, and as the stone glows, the walls around him seem to billow away and he sees the asteroidal meeting room where The Other has been on hold (listening to some annoying Chitauri Muzak no doubt).

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Dat glaive: Enthrallment

Several times throughout the movie, Loki uses places the point of the glaive on a victim’s chest near their heart, and a blue fog passes from the stone to infect them: an electric blackness creeps upward along their skin from their chest until it reaches their eyes, which turn fully black for a moment before becoming the same ice blue of the glaive’s stone, and we see that the victim is now enthralled into Loki’s servitude.

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You have heart.

The glaive is very, very terribly designed for this purpose. Continue reading

Dat glaive: Projectile gestures

TRIGGER WARNING: IF YOU ARE PRONE TO SEIZURES, this is not the post for you. In fact, you can just read the text and be quit of it. The more neurologically daring of you can press “MORE,” but you have been forewarned.

If the first use of Loki’s glaive is as a melée weapon, the second use is of a projectile weapon. Loki primes it, it glows fiercely blue-white, and then he fires it with usually-deadly accuracy to the sorrow of his foes.

This blog is not interested in the details of the projectile, but what is interesting is the interface by which he primes and fires it. How does he do it? Let’s look. He fires the thing 8 times over the course of the movie. What do we see there? Continue reading

Dat glaive

When Loki materializes on the dais, he is holding one the key objects to The Avengers and indeed the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe multi-franchise Infinity Stones plot. What is it?

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NIck Fury calls the thing a spear. Others call it a staff. The official Disney wiki calls it the Chitauri Sceptre, but this thing is very much a tool. Over this and the next several posts, I’ll talk about how it is used alternately as the following.

  • A melée weapon
  • A projectile weapon
  • An intelligence supplement
  • A bad-mojo radiator
  • A teleconferencing device
  • An enthrallment knife

Notably, in no scene does he carry it on a ceremonial occasion as a symbol of sovereignty, so scepter really doesn’t fit our purposes. What does? Well, any RPG fan worth their Deck of Many Things knows that the blades-on-a-stick category of weapons are many and nuanced. Finding a perfect term is tough since historians and medievalists have categorized other pole arms according to their construction and function, and none of them are quite like this one.

Avengers-Glaive Continue reading

J.D.E.M. LEVEL 5

The first computer interface we see in the film occurs at 3:55. It’s an interface for housing and monitoring the tesseract, a cube that is described in the film as “an energy source” that S.H.I.E.L.D. plans to use to “harness energy from space.” We join the cube after it has unexpectedly and erratically begun to throw off low levels of gamma radiation.

The harnessing interface consists of a housing, a dais at the end of a runway, and a monitoring screen.

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Fury walks past the dais they erected just because.

The housing & dais

The harness consists of a large circular housing that holds the cube and exposes one face of it towards a long runway that ends in a dais. Diegetically this is meant to be read more as engineering than interface, but it does raise questions. For instance, if they didn’t already know it was going to teleport someone here, why was there a dais there at all, at that exact distance, with stairs leading up to it? How’s that harnessing energy? Wouldn’t you expect a battery at the far end? If they did expect a person as it seems they did, then the whole destroying swaths of New York City thing might have been avoided if the runway had ended instead in the Hulk-holding cage that we see later in the film. So…you know…a considerable flaw in their unknown-passenger teleportation landing strip design. Anyhoo, the housing is also notable for keeping part of the cube visible to users near it, and holding it at a particular orientation, which plays into the other component of the harness—the monitor.

Avengers-cubemonitoring-03 Continue reading

The Avengers (2013): Overview

Release date: 4 May 2013, United States

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As with all overviews, ALL THE SPOILERS ahead.

A mysterious alien artifact called the Tesseract summons the Asgardian god Loki to the Earth, where he uses a powerful staff to either kill or enthrall several S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives before stealing the Tesseract and making his escape with them. The head of S.H.I.E.L.D., Nick Fury, gains permission from a shadowy council to assemble a team of superheroes (Iron Man, Bruce Banner, Black Widow, and Captain America) code named The Avengers Initiative to help capture Loki and recover the Tesseract. They find and capture him in Berlin but his operatives get away with a cache of rare metals. Loki’s brother Thor shows up to claim him but after fighting Iron Man and Captain America, Thor agrees to let Loki remain captured in S.H.I.E.L.D.’s helicarrier.

Loki’s operatives trace him and sabotage the helicarrier to free him as Banner becomes the Hulk and goes on a rampage through the vessel. Through fierce combat and resourcefulness, the helicarrier is saved from crashing, but Loki escapes with his staff.

In New York City Loki’s operatives use the metals they stole and the Tesseract to create an interdimensional gate through which he summons an alien army. Though the Avengers mount a strong defense of the city, the shadowy council orders a nuclear strike on the city to destroy the alien army. Iron Man intercepts the missile, flies it through the portal into the alien mothership, disabling the invaders em masse before falling back through the portal to Earth.

At the resolution of the film, Thor returns to Asgard with Loki and the Tesseract and the staff remains on Earth. Also the team enjoys some shawarma.

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Redesigning Star Wars is coming to San Francisco

For Star Wars Day, I’m pleased to announce…RSW_graphic

Star Wars was originally released in 1977, long before audiences had the daily deep engagement with computers that we have today, and long before interaction design was its own profession. What was mind-blowing technology back then can seem quaint today. How would you, as a professional designer, do it over again?

18 September 2015, San Francisco

In this day-long workshop that is part of the Sum of the Parts speakers series, you’ll sharpen your pair design skills on reviewing and redesigning some of the interfaces found in this well-known and beloved film, with other designers from in and around the bay area.

Attendees will practice

  • Working in pairs
  • Heuristic analysis of speculative interfaces
  • Quickly designing for unspecified tech in the “long horizon”
  • Approaching problematic designs with an apologetics perspective
  • Abstracting the lessons in such “toy problems” to get better at the problems we face in our real world design

But wait, don’t answer

In addition to the workshop, we’ll have tasty catering, a keepsake workbook, guest speakers, and if we get enough people, we can select one of the interfaces to be produced by a special effects house before the December release of Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens.

Next step

Prices for the event will depend on the venue and the venue depends on the number of attendees. So express your interest by signing up for the mailing list below. It’s MailChimp, which keeps you in control of the email subscription, and since I hate spam, too, I’ll keep your email information absolutely private. Join that mailing list by clicking the link below.

I’m interested! Let me know as more information comes available.

Christopher Noessel is a designer, speaker, keeper of the blog scifiinterfaces.com, and co-author of the Rosenfeld Media book Make It So: Interaction Design Lessons from Science Fiction (Rosenfeld Media, 2012). He has lectured and taught about designing for speculative futures internationally.

Disclaimer

This event is not an officially licensed anything. Star Wars and its associated brands and trademarks are the property of Disney, and scifiinterfaces.com is not affiliated with Disney in any way. This workshop is an exercise in critique and education, and use of the material is protected under the Fair Use doctrine.

Sci-fi University Episode 2: Synecdoche & The Ghost in the Shell

How can direct manipulation work on objects that are too large to be directly manipulated?

Sci-fi University critically examines interfaces in sci-fi that illustrate core design concepts. In this 3:30 minute episode, Christopher discusses how the interfaces of Ghost in the Shell introduces synecdoche to our gestural language.

If you know someone who likes anime, and is interested in natural user interfaces—especially gesture—please share this video with them.

Special ありがとう to Tom Parker for his editing.

Watch a supercut of every user interface from The Avengers (2013)

With the reviews of Oblivion behind us, and The Avengers: Age of Ultron upon us in a matter of days, I thought it would be good to review the movie that canonized Joss Whedon into Hollywood sainthood so hard they had to retcon Catholicism into the timeline so this joke could happen.

Here it is, a supercut of every user interface in The Avengers (2013).

Boy there are some amazing interfaces in there. Got any favorites?

Report Card: Oblivion

Read all the Oblivion reviews in chronological order.

According to the director, Oblivion is “a daylight science fiction film with a kind of Twilight Zone story,” a callback to pre-Star Wars, 1970’s lonely man sci-fi set against a huge backdrop. (Read the full interview by Germain Lussier on /Film for more.) Certainly, it’s more visually-satisfying thing than intellectually-satisfying thing, but fortunately that same thing does not play out in the interfaces.

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