Scifiinterfaces.com presents the 20th anniversary of Ghost in the Shell at the New Parkway

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Let’s celebrate the 20th anniversary of this awesome, hand-drawn anime title that features some amazingly foresightful wearable tech. The show will be at the New Parkway cinema in Oakland, California on Thursday March 26th at 7PM. As usual there will be an awesome preshow with an analysis of one of the interfaces, a mobile-phone trivia contest to win GitS t-shirts, a possible 30-finger race (if we get enough people and I can make the apparatus), and your ticket includes you in a raffle for one of the year-long Creative Cloud subscriptions (a $600 value) provided from my in-kind sponsor Adobe. Join Major Motoko Kusanagi in her mind expanding search for the Puppet Master, and please spread the word to your friends and mid-1990s anime fans!

Entrevista Maximiliano Pena

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Hi there. Tell us a bit about yourself. What’s your name, where are you from, how do you spend your time?

Hi! I´m Maximiliano Pena and right now I live in La Plata, Argentina. I graduated in Multimedia Design not so long ago, and I usually spent my time doing some freelance work as a web designer. Besides that I like to practice drawing, learning new stuff—currently I’m teaching myself Portuguese—and I like to work on some DIY electronic projects now and then too.

I’ve always thought that I ended up into interaction design thanks to my flying lessons, it always surprised me how the controls on the plane somehow were always available, always at reach but never getting in the way of the task you were doing.

What are some of your favorite sci-fi interfaces (Other than in Oblivion)? (And, of course, why?)

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5 Sci-fi U.S. Presidents not using interfaces

It was my intention to simply show you some images of fictional United States Presidents using interfaces in science fiction movies for Presidents’ Day. But alas. They don’t.

I’m not going to claim this is exhaustive, but I looked at five Presidents:

  1. President Merkin Muffley from Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
  2. President Beck from Deep Impact (1998)
  3. President James Dale from Mars Attacks! (1996)
  4. President Thomas J. Whitmore from Independence Day (1996)
  5. President McKenna from X2 (2003)

Over these movies, Presidents can be seen reading displays and teleprompters,…

President Beck explains meteors to the public.

President Beck explains dire asteroids to the public.

President X prepares to read some bad news for mutants.

President McKenna prepares to read some dire news for mutants.

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Introducing Heath Rezabek

MLIS—Librarian and Futurist.

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Hi there. Tell us a bit about yourself. What’s your name, where are you from, how do you spend your time?

I’m Heath Rezabek. I live in Austin, Texas, and have been an enthusiast of user interface design for many years. By career and calling I’m a librarian, and am a library services and technology grant manager by day. I have long been interested in how information is portrayed, symbolized, and accessed. I’m also writer of experimental speculative fiction, and have an interest in how the future is seen by creators and audiences. Interfaces play a key role in my fiction series, as well, from holographic to virtual world driven to all-out surrealist.

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What are some of your favorite sci-fi interfaces (Other than in Oblivion)? (And, of course, why.)

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Introducing Aleatha Singleton

Hi there. Tell us a bit about yourself. What’s your name, where are you from, how do you spend your time?

Hi. I’m Aleatha Singleton, hailing from Houston, Texas. I’ve been a UX Designer for over 15 years. I enjoy solving problems and making things that are easy and fun to use whether they’re digital or analog.

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When I’m not at work, I like to read, study the Japanese culture, and teach myself new things such as designing and building furniture or making udon noodles from scratch.

I’ve always been a big fan of sci-fi interfaces and technology, especially when the concepts become reality. It’s always fun and exciting to see how ideas that seemed so impossible only a couple of decades ago are being prototyped and developed in labs around the world, such as holodecks, 3D volumetric interfaces, neural scanners, etc., etc.

In the future, I would like to be a part of cutting edge innovation and ideation—thinking about how technology could improve lives—and then build it and make it real.

What are some of your favorite sci-fi interfaces (Other than in Oblivion)? (And, of course, why?)

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The Oblivion will be nerdsourced

The review of Oblivion will not go down as almost all of the others have, i.e., as a single author working his way through all interfaces in a given film. This review is distributed amongst several authors. How did this come about?

In April of 2014 I posted a call for readers of the site to band together to make reviewing a movie a little less onerous along with a poll to see which movie we should review. That movie is Oblivion, and the reviews will be going live over the next weeks.

Since this review will involve multiple people, keep an eye on the site for biography posts introducing each of the new authors before their first post goes live. Maybe you’ll be inspired to join the next “nerdsourcing” experiment.

Oblivion (2013): Overview

Release date: 19 April 2013, United States

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As with all overviews, ALL THE SPOILERS ahead. Some movies warrant just a few paragraphs, but it turns out this is a rather complicated plot.

Oblivion opens 50 years after an alien invasion, during which a great many things happened.

  • Aliens called “Scavs” hammered the moon into huge clustered fragments
  • (In turn) Doing massive ecological damage to the Earth
  • The humans retaliated with nuclear weapons
  • The Earth became contaminated with radiation
  • Most of humanity had to leave the planet to colonize Titan
  • Massive hydro-rigs were set up in the oceans that convert seawater into energy
  • Semi-autonomous flying robots called drones patrol and defend the hydro-rigs from the remaining Scavs, who attempt to destroy the drones and hydro-rigs
  • A massive tetrahedral spaceship called the Tet was put in orbit around the earth to serve as command and control for pairs of humans who live as a couple and work as a team in their section to monitor and protect both the hydro-rigs and the drones
  • One member of these teams stays in their sky home, called the Tower, to monitor activity and relay information to and from the Tet
  • The other member of these teams, the Tech, operates a “bubbleship” to patrol the sector to which they are assigned

One team, Victoria and Jack, are two weeks away from retirement when they are awoken one night by a massive explosion. It is one of their hydro-rigs, sabotaged by Scavs in their section. While investigating the wreckage, they detect a strange radio signal. Jack traces it to its source, discovering a repeater in the ruined Empire State Building broadcasting a set of coordinates off-planet. Later he spies a vessel landing at the broadcast coordinates. He visits the crashed vessel to find it is part of a pre-war human spacecraft, the sleeping pod of the Odyssey. Within are hibernation chambers, but only one crewmember is alive. Jack recovers it as drones show up to destroy them. At the Tower, Jack and Victoria revive its occupant, Julia. The next morning Julia travels with Jack back to the crash site to fetch the flight recorder, but both are taken captive by Scavs.

In captivity Jack learns the horrible truth…

  • The Scavs are actually the only humans left after the war
  • The Tet, drones, and hydro-rigs are the alien technology
  • Jack and Victoria are the tools of the aliens defending their tech from the rest of humanity
  • Sacvs remote-controlled the Odyssey to crash in order to scavenge its nuclear fuel for a bomb to be delivered to the Tet in a captured Drone

Victoria, unaware, sends drones to save Jack, forcing the Scavs to release Jack and Julia. The leader Beech encourages Jack to visit the forbidden radiation zones to confirm the truth. Julie further reveals…

  • The Odyssey was originally en route to Titan when it was intercepted by the alien Tet
  • Jack and Victoria were once part of the Odyssey crew as well
  • Jack and Julia were husband and wife

Through a remote-controlled bubbleship camera, Victoria observes them kissing and this drives her to betray Jack and Julie to the Tet. The Tet activates a Drone and sends it to kill them all, but it only kills Victoria before Julia destroys it. Traveling to another sector, Jack sees a clone of himself appear in a similar bubbleship, to service a Drone. They fight and the clone is killed, and Julia is wounded in the melee. Jack gets into the clone’s bubbleship and travels to its Tower, where he meets a Victoria clone, and he realizes that the planet must be populated by huge numbers of these clones. He fetches a medkit and returns to Julia. He takes her to recover in a log cabin in a lush valley he has been keeping secret from Victoria for a long time. After she heals, he returns to the Scavs, and helps them reprogram their captured Drone, but the Scav enclave is largely destroyed by other drones sent by the Tet.

They load the bomb into a hibernation chamber, appear to seal Julia inside, load it onto a bubbleship, and fly to the Tet. En route he plays the flight recording from the Odyssey to learn…

  • When the Odyssey originally approached the Tet, Victoria and Jack were pilot and copilot
  • When they were caught in the Tet’s tractor beam, they ejected the sleeping pod with the remainder of the crew to protect them

Finally, in the bowels of the Tet, he…

  • Sees the clone vats where more Jacks and Victorias are being grown
  • Faces the horrible alien intelligence
  • Awakens the person in the hibernation chamber, which—surprise—is Beech, not Julia
  • Explodes the bomb, destroying the Tet

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Back on Earth, Julia is awakes in a different hibernation chamber at the lush log cabin, as part of Jack’s duplicitous plan to save her. She gives birth to a daughter, and three years later is found by one of the Jack clones, accompanied by a group of the surviving Scavs.

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Announcing the Fritzes

I am pleased to announce an inaugural award for the year’s best interfaces seen in sci-fi movies throughout the prior year, to honor and encourage excellence in sci-fi interfaces, called the Fritzes. I will be give out the awards in February of 2015. The films will be nominated by and voted on a small academy of interaction designers, sci-fi makers, and critics.

If you’re wondering, the name of the award honors Fritz Lang, who, with his film Metropolis, made history with the first serious work of science fiction in film to contain interfaces. Though dark and often times dystopian (heck, Moloch is a character), it marked the first film in which interfaces became a part of the way we told the human story. The Fritzes honor excellence in both storytelling and interface design.

Our sponsor

Intel Corporation has generously offered to support the creation of a custom-designed award to be delivered to recipients after the awards are announced. It’s currently being fabricated, but you can see the draft rendering of it, below.

Note there are opportunities for other sponsorships, please contact me if your organization is interested.

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Stay tuned

More information about the awards, including the categories and dates will be forthcoming in early 2015. Stay tuned to scifiinterfaces.com to stay up to date on the latest information, including how to nominate your independent film.

A possible mini-con

I am considering hosting a mini-conference the day of the awards, that might include

  • the Redesigning Star Wars workshop that I threw to great feedback in Stockholm
  • Workshops to learn sci-fi interface prototyping software

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and of course, an awards show itself. Maybe cocktails.

Before I embark on this, I’d love to hear how many folks are interested in attending such a sci-fi interfaces mini-con. I don’t know what ticket prices would be, but that partly depends on how much interest there is. If you are interested in attending something like this, please let me know by answering the poll below.

Note if you have AdBlock installed, the poll will not appear. Disable it for this site to access the poll.

Report Card: Starship Troopers

Starship Troopers is an unlikely movie to have come out of the 1990s. Director Paul Verhoeven says that it got made because it was a high-turnover time at Sony, and the script just got shooed along as studio leads paraded in and out. The irony, hyperbole, and critique of American neocons as fascist warmongers was all in the script from the beginning. Had anyone looked at the script or the dailies, he says, it might not have been made. That’s probably why I like this movie so much, in that it’s a criticism of hawkishness and the culture that gives rise to it.

But despite that soft spot that I have for it, I’m here to rate the interfaces, and in that regard, it is lucky I don’t send it to the brig.

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Escape pod weapons cache

I wish that the last Starship Troopers interface wasn’t this one, but so it goes.

After piloting the escape pod through the atmosphere using the meager interfaces she has to work with, it careens off of a hill to pierce the thin wall of a mountainside and landing Ibanez and Barcalow squarely in the dangerous depths of bug burrows.

After checking on Ibanez, Barcalow exits the pod and struts around to the back of it, where he pulls open a panel to access the weapons within.

So equipped, the pair are able to defend themselves at least a few moments before being overwhelmed by superior bug numbers.

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So. OK. This.

I want to ask why, in the first place, they would get out of a vehicle that can survive space, re-entry, breaking through a frakking mountainside, and crash landing without so much as a scratch. If they’d stayed there, would the bugs have been able to get at them? Couldn’t staying inside of it given them at least a fighting chance until Rico got there? The glass didn’t break when slammed at terminal velocity into stone. I think it can handle bug pincers. But I digress. that’s a question of character logic, not interfaces, so let me put that aside.

Instead, let me ask about the design rationale of putting the weapons in an exterior compartment. Wouldn’t it make more sense to put them inside the pod? If they’d landed with hostiles present outside the vehicle, what was the plan, ask them to hold on while you grabbed something from the trunk?

Additionally, it appears that there are no security features. Barcalow just opens it. Silly seeming, of course, but that’s how it should work, i.e., for the right person it just opens up. So in the spirit of apologetics—and giving it way more credit than it’s earned across this film—let’s presume that the pod has some passive authentication mechanism that biometrically checks him at a distance and unlocks the panel so that he doesn’t even have to think about it, especially in this crisis scenario.

That’s an apologetics gift from me to you, Starship Troopers, since I still have a soft spot in my heart for you.