Ford Explorer Status

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One computer in the control room is dedicated to showing the status of the Jeeps out on tour, and where they currently are on the island.

Next to the vehicle outline, we see the words “Vehicle Type: Ford Explorer” (thank you, product placement) along with “EXP” 4–7.  EXP 4 & 5 look unselected, but have green dots next to them, while EXP 6 & 7 look selected with red dots next to them.  No characters interact with this screen. Mr. Arnold does tap on it with a pen (to make a point though, not to interact with it).

On the right hand side of the screen also see a top-down view of the car with the electric track shown underneath, and little red arrows pointing forward.  Below the graphic are the words “13 mph”.  The most visible and obvious indicator on the screen is the headlights.  A large “Headlights On” indicator is at the top of the screen, with highlighted cones coming out of the Jeep where the headlights are on the car. Continue reading

Iron Man HUD: A Breakdown

So this is going to take a few posts. You see, the next interface that appears in The Avengers is a video conference between Tony Stark in his Iron Man supersuit and his partner in romance and business, Pepper Potts, about switching Stark Tower from the electrical grid to their independent power source. Here’s what a still from the scene looks like.

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So on the surface of this scene, it’s a communications interface.

But that chat exists inside of an interface with a conceptual and interaction framework that has been laid down since the original Iron Man movie in 2008, and built upon with each sequel, one in 2010 and one in 2013. (With rumors aplenty for a fourth one…sometime.)

So to review the video chat, I first have to talk about the whole interface, and that has about 6 hours of prologue occurring across 4 years of cinema informing it. So let’s start, as I do with almost every interface, simply by describing it and its components. Continue reading

Ford Explorers

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The Ford Explorer is an automated vehicle driven on an electrified track through a set route in the park.  It has protective covers over its steering wheel, and a set of cameras throughout the car:

  • Twin cameras at the steering wheel looking out the windshield to give a remote chauffeur or computer system stereoscopic vision
  • A small camera on the front bumper looking down at the track right in front of the vehicle
  • Several cameras facing into the cab, giving park operators an opportunity to observe and interact with visitors. (See the subsequent SUV Surveillance post.)

Presumably, there are protective covers over the gas/brake pedal as well, but we never see that area of the interior; evidence comes from when Dr. Grant and Dr. Saddler want to stop and look at the triceratops they don’t even bother to try and reach for the brake pedal, but merely hop out of the SUV.

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The SUVs also have an interactive CD-ROM player in the center console with a touchscreen.  The CD-ROM has narrated, basic information about the park and exhibits, and has set points during the tour that it plays information about specific areas or dinosaurs.

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The Single, Central Screen

For what should be a focal point and value add for everyone in the car is poorly placed and in-optimally set up.  This would be the perfect situation for a second screen in the second console, at least.  If we look to more modern technology, we could start to include HUD overlays on all the windows of the Ford Explorer to track dinosaurs (so passengers would know where to look).  This could integrate with the need for better Night Vision Goggles.

A second concern is the hand-controlled interface.  Suddenly, everyone in the SUV is subservient to the two people who are within touch distance of the screen. Jurassic Park has enough location data and content in the presentation to be able to customize the play order to the tour.  This would keep an overactive kid from taking control of the screen and ruining the tour for everyone else in the car.

Steering Controls

The Ford Explorers maintain the steering wheel and gear selectors from their off-the-shelf compatriots.  This has two detriments on the passengers:

  • Cramps the person in the driver’s seat
  • Gives a false impression of control

The space is the most detrimental to the tour experience.  While the passenger has legroom, arm room, and plenty of space to turn around; the driver is forced to deal with the space hogging controls that are unusable.

By keeping the steering wheel, the SUV also implies that the driver could take control of the car.  We see no evidence of that, and Dr. Grant even climbs into the back of the Explorer instead of staying in the driver’s position.

The SUV drives itself, and shouldn’t give a false affordance that people are used to.

Comfort

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The Mercedes F015 Self Driving Concept Car

A more radical concept would be completely custom vehicles.  Mercedes recently revealed a concept car focused around a lounge feel.  Other carmakers have done the same (Ford, Chevy, ect…).  It’s advantages are the increased social focus of the interior, and the easier access to all the windows.

Would this be more expensive? Yes, but as Hammond mentions frequently, they “spared no expense” to improve the experience for the guests.

The original article referenced these as Jeep Grand Cherokees… which they definitely are not.  As pointed out by Cary (http://smokeythejeep.wordpress.com/), the only Jeeps on the island are the gas powered models that the park rangers and staff use to get around the island.  These, as the article now states, are Ford Explorers ca. 1992.

Paddock Design

A number of the interfaces in Jurassic Park show a plan view map of the paddocks on the island. Some of them are quite unusual (take a look that that wraparound one in the center) and we wondered if the paddock shapes made any sense. It’s a little outside the site’s focus on interaction design, but that didn’t matter. Once we had the question, it kept tugging on our gastralia.

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But, we’re not zoo architects, so we reached out to one of the premier such agencies, CLR Design in Philadelphia. They specialize in designing zoo environments and have an impressive portfolio with plans and exhibits all over the United States and around the world.

Don’t see any unarmed dinosaur paddocks HERE, now do you?

Don’t see any unarmed dinosaur paddocks HERE, now do you?

“They,” we thought, “They’ll be able to give us an informed opinion.” So we shot them an email, explained the odd request, and to our nerdy delight Dan Gregory gave us the following awesome thoughts. Continue reading

Abidjan Operation

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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. bartoncompromised

Continue reading

Weather Monitor

Jurassic Park’s weather prediction software sits on a dedicated computer. It pulls updates from some large government weather forecast (likely NOAA).  The screen is split into three sections (clockwise from top left):

  1. 3D representation of the island and surrounding ocean with cloud layers shown
  2. plan view of the island showing cloud cover
  3. A standard climate metrics along the bottom with data like wind direction (labeled Horizontal Direction), barometric pressure, etc.

We also see a section labeled “Sectors”, with “Island 1” currently selected (other options include “USA” and “Island 2”…which is suitably mysterious).

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Using the software, they are able to pan the views to the area of ocean with an incoming tropical storm.  The map does not show rainfall, wind direction, wind speed, or distance; but the control room seems to have another source of information for that.  They discuss the projected path of the storm while looking at the map.

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Missing Information

The park staff relies on the data from weather services of America and Costa Rica, but doesn’t trust their conclusions (Muldoon asks if this storm will swing out of the way at the last second despite projections, “like the last one”).  But the team at Jurassic Park doesn’t have any information on what’s actually happening with the storm.

Unlike local weather stations here in the U.S., or sites like NOAA weather maps, there is in this interface a lack of basic forecasting information like, say, precipitation amount, precipitation type, individual wind speeds inside the storm, direction, etc… Given the deadly, deadly risks inherent in the park, this seems like a significant oversight.

The software has spent a great deal of time rendering a realistic-ish cloud (which, we should note looks foreshadowingly like a human skull), but neglects to give information that is taken for granted by common weather information systems.

Prediction

When the park meteorologist isn’t on duty, or isn’t awake, or has his attention on the Utahraptor trying to smash its way into the control room, the software should provide some basic information to everyone on staff:

  • What does the weather forecast look like over the next few hours and days?

When the weather is likely to be severe, there’s more information, and it needs to urgently get the attention of the park staff.

  • What’s the prediction?
  • Which parts of the park will be hit hardest?
  • Which tours and staff are in the most dangerous areas?
  • How long will the storm be over the island?

If this information tied into mobile apps or Jurassic Park’s wider systems, it could provide alerts to individual staff, tourists, and tours about where they could take shelter.

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Make the Information Usable

Reorienting information that is stuck on the bottom bar and shifting it into the 3d visual would lower the cognitive load required to understand everything that’s going on.  Adding in visuals for other weather data (taken for granted in weather systems now) would bring it at least up to standard.

Finally, putting it up on the big monitor either on demand or when it is urgent would make it available to everyone in the control room, instead of just whoever happened to be at the weather monitor. Modern systems would push the information information out to staff and visitors on their mobile devices as well.

With those changes, everyone could see weather in real time to adjust their behavior appropriately (like, say, delaying the tour when there’s a tropical storm an hour south), the programmer could check the systems and paddocks that are going to get hit, and the inactive consoles could do whatever they needed to do.

Iron Welding

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Cut to the bottom of the Hudson River where some electrical “transmission lines” rest. Tony in his Iron Man supersuit has his palm-mounted repulsor rays configured such that they create a focused beam, capable of cutting through an iron pipe to reveal power cables within. Once the pipe casing is removed, he slides a circular device onto the cabling. The cuff automatically closes, screws itself tight, and expands to replace the section of casing. Dim white lights burn brighter as hospital-green rings glow brightly around the cable’s circumference. His task done, he underwater-flies away, flying up the southern tip of Manhattan to Stark Tower.

It’s quick scene that sets up the fact that they’re using Tony’s arc reactor technology to liberate Stark Tower from the electrical grid (incidentally implying that the Avengers will never locate a satellite headquarters anywhere in Florida. Sorry, Jeb.) So, since it’s a quick scene, we can just skip the details and interaction design issues, right?

Of course not. You know better from this blog.

Avengers-Underwater_welding02 Continue reading

Carrier Control

In the second instantiation of videochat with the World Security Council that we see (here’s the first one), when Fury receives their order to bomb the site of the Chitauri portal. He takes this call on the bridge, and rather than a custom hardware setup, this is a series of windows that overlay an ominous-red map of the world in an app called CARRIER CONTROL. These windows represent a built-in chat feature for discussing this very topic. There is some fuigetry on the periphery, but our focus is on these windows and the conversation happening through them.

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In this version of the chat, we are assured that it is a SECURE TRANSMISSION by a legend across the top of each, but there is not the same level of assurance as in the videoconference room. If it’s still HOTP, Fury isn’t notified of it. There’s a tiny 01_AZ in the upper right of every screen, but it never changes and is the same for each participant. (An homage to Arizona? Lighter Andrew Zink? Cameraman Arthur Zajac?) Though this is a more desperate situation, you imagine that the need for security is no less dire. Having that same cypher key would be comforting if it is in fact a policy.

Different sizes of windows in the app seem to indicate a hierarchy, since the largest window is the fellow who does most of the talking in both conferences, and it does not change as others speak. Such an automated layout would spare Fury the hassle of having to manage multiple windows, though visually these look more like individual objects he’s meant to manipulate. Poor affordances.

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The only control we see is when Fury dismisses them, and to do this he just taps at the middle of the screen. The teleconference window is “push wiped” by a satellite view of New York City. Fine, he feels like punching them. But…

a) How does he actually select something in that interface without a tap?

b) A swipe would have been more meaningful, and in line with the gestural pidgin I identified in the gestural chapter of the book.

And of course, if this was the real world, you’d hope for better affordances for what can be done on this window across the board.

So though mostly effective, narratively, could use some polish.

Ground Penetrating Radar Gun

The ground penetrating radar gun is a cutting edge piece of technology used by Dr. Grant and Dr. Sattler for their field paleontology work. After firing a blank round into the ground, a second piece of equipment picks up the returning sound waves.

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Those results are then displayed on a small CRT TV, to which they have taped a makeshift glare. A technician sits at the equipment stack with a keyboard, but no recognizable computer screen. Several buttons, dials, and a waveform monitor complement the setup.

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After twiddling some dials, and punching a few keys, the technician makes the sonogram appear on the monitor, revealing a utahraptor velociraptor skeleton. Dr. Grant then tries to point out to eager onlookers some of the interesting features of the fossil on the screen. When he touches it, the screen fuzzes for a moment. It appears to be a very delicate piece of equipment in a very harsh part of the desert.

After Grant explains how the gun shows the fossils still in the ground, Sattler comments—foreshadowingly—that “Soon enough, we won’t even have to dig any more…” Enter Hammond and the ironic fulfillment narrative.

Iterate through the Prototype Phase

It looks like this is a very early version of the device, and still very much a prototype. This means it has a lot of issues: very delicate, obfuscated controls, and requires a small team dedicated to just making it work. It doesn’t look fully ready for the field yet…

…And that’s awesome.

This is the perfect example of a usability test: we now know that crotchety archeologists (the primary customer for this product) are going to want to poke it, prod it, and see a lot of detail.  Those are things that, at this stage, can probably still be fixed and improved.

The controls, if that’s what they really are, still have time to be iterated into a usable format.  We know they aren’t usable because even the archeology team struggles with it.

All vital information for getting back to the next iteration for making it better for actual field paleontologists. Until they’re rendered extinct, anyway.

Shadowy videoconferencing room

After Loki gets away with the crazy-powerful tesseract and a handful of S.H.I.E.L.D. (seriously that’s a pain to type) agents, Fury has a virtual meeting with members of the World Security Council—which is shadowy in appearance and details. To conduct this furtive conference Fury walks into a room custom-built for such purposes.

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A bank of large vertically-mounted monitors forms a semicircle in the small room, each mounted above a workstation with keyboard and multiple screens overlit for maximum eyestrain. It’s quite unclear what the agents who normally work here are currently doing, or what those vertically mounted screens normally display, since they’d be a shoo-in for an OSHA lawsuit, given the amount a user would need to crane. Ergonomics, Nick, look it up.

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Each screen dedicates most of its real estate to a waist-up view of the speaker. Overlays near the bottom assure us that DATA [is] SECURE and confirms it with a 16-character alphanumeric CYPHER KEY that is frequently changing and unique to each speaker. This is similar to an HMAC-based One-time Password Algorithm (HOTP) password algorithm, so is well-grounded in reality. It’s convincing.

The screens adhere to the trope that every screen is a camera. Nick looks at their eyes and they look right back. Ordinarily that would be a big problem, but with the translucent displays and the edge lighting of the participants, it could actually work.

There is no indication of controls for these screens, but that’s cool if the room is dedicated to this purpose. Someone else would set the call up for him, and all he has to do is walk in. He should be able to just walk out to end it. And let them know how he feels about them.