‘Initial Question’ Exploration and Changes

Going back to the ‘Initial Question’..

Science Fiction envisions alternative or distance worlds, what would happen if we incorporated these technologies and interfaces into present-day, every-day life?

What would happen if these futuristic stylish interfaces from these films where placed back into real life users. Furthermore, the concept I explored is what if I selected 3 technologies from different Science Fiction Films and put them into current day.

One example is the Blade Runner ‘Esper’ machine shown in the film;

The ESPER machine was able to shift the viewer’s point of view to see around obstructions and do near infinite zooming in. In the real world, plenoptic light-field cameras can already do half of that; a micro-lens array in front of the sensor pixels allows seeing around foreground obstructions to a limited extent. But this virtual camera move is always at the cost of image resolution, so you trade some image quality in exchange for this feature. This would limit the usefulness of zooming after doing a camera move. But if you started with an exceedingly high resolution light-field capture, you could achieve most of what the Blade Runner ESPER machine does.

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Sketch of how the ‘ESPER’ Machine operates

However, whilst setting out this task I noted that how in more current day Science Fiction more care is put into the design of these interfaces, despite still being designed for film that may be shown for only a minute at most or so viewers can quickly get the key information shown. What if these were again put back into reality and critiqued.

As noted in a blog post by the authors of Make it So: Interaction Design Lessons from Science Fiction, Titled ‘Bitching about Transparent Screens’ .

Interaction and interface design answers to one set of masters: User feedback sessions, long-term user loyalty, competition, procurement channels, app reviews, security, regulation, product management tradeoffs of custom-built vs. off-the-shelf, and, ideally, how well it helps the user achieve their goals.

But technology in movies and television shows don’t have to answer to any of these things. The cause-and-effect is scripted. It could be the most unusable piece of junk tech in that universe and it will still do exactly what it is supposed to do. Hell, it’s entirely likely that the actor was “interacting” with a blank screen on set and the interface painted on afterward (in “post”). Sci-fi interfaces answer to the masters of story, worldbuilding, and often, spectacle.

These are what they describe as ‘technology in narrative’ where the interactions only obey the narrative rather than real world conventions like usability and constraints.

Sci-fi is so pervasive, so spectacular, so “cool,” that designers mustbuild up a skeptical immunity to prevent its undue influence on their work.


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In this presentation I explore some the initial reasoning and exploration when looking at the subject of Science Fiction. Explaining, how my initial interested spurred from the aesthetics that came about when creating and visualising ‘sci-fi’ interfaces and technologies. In the project prior, I set about with the goal of identifying some of the various elements and factors that create these visuals that we see in science fiction.

Through identifying what considerations are made to creating science fiction design. A key theme on how real-life often plays a key factor of the visualising of these interfaces, and vice versa, these aesthetics can even shape the designs of today.

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Constant re-imaginings and re-iterations

Furthermore, how liken to any literature when translated to visual mediums, whether illustration, television, film etc. These will always be adapted to cater to the current norms and design language of the times. A trend we’re seeing in films in particular is ‘reboots’ or follow-ups to older IP’s (Intellectual Properties), which may either pay homage to the original keeping some of the design trends of the time, or ‘updating’ them to appeal to current day viewers.

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Blade Runners’ sequel Blade Runner 2049

Going back to the ‘Initial Question’..

Science Fiction envisions alternative or distance worlds, what would happen if we incorporated these technologies and interfaces into present-day, every-day life?

What would happen if these futuristic stylish interfaces from these films where placed back into real life users. Potentially one pathway I could explore to develop this project.

However, in literature Science Fiction is often used as a mode to critique upon reality. Through using the genre of Science Fiction, world’s can be imagined where developments in technologies, societies, etc. are often exaggerated, or made ‘possible’ (e.g. what if technology x that currently does not work did in the future) to critique on where these technologies, events or ideas may lead us.

Science Fiction despite being imagined in these ‘not-so-distant’ to ‘far-future’, or alternative world’s these will forever be linked to current day norms, and these constant feedback between how Sci-Fi is shaped upon the events of the time and it shaping then, identifying and exploring this relationship, in another potential area of which I find interesting.

‘Crazy 8s’ Design Sprint Task

The Task

For the Crazy 8 task, we had to create a series of questions prior to explore various topics that each of us where interested in to explore and develop for the final project.

The exercise loosely followed:

Pose a question: e.g. how do you change the experience of the news. Get into two groups of two or three, and those two groups will work on one idea. Exercise will be 10 minutes to create 8 ideas. A word a statement and/or a sketch. Rotate groups, then boil down those ideas in 5 minutes to 4. Rotate again then in 2 minutes create a short proposal for each of them.

The Initial Questions

The questions I had devised for the past prior followed:

  1. How do you envision Science Fiction/High Tech Interfaces in daily life?
  2. How do we adapt interfaces to better represent the aspects and elements of environments within games?
  3. How would you experience Science Fiction in daily life?

These questions followed on from my points and ideas in the previous project, looking into science fiction interfaces I wanted to explore those ideas and concepts further as I felt that I had only really briefly covered a wide area about the subject without using the knowledge and information I had found to really go in depth with the subject matter I had found.

Furthermore, as one of my other interests is with video games, as like film and other digital media, they can either be very basic like Space Invaders or Tetris or have a whole world created with story built around the game-play elements. Some examples I mentioned prior or like Dark Souls where the setting is set in this archaic medieval setting, however the world is literally with various assortment of creatures ranging from mythical, like dragons, to their own unique interpretations of creatures like pygmies and demons. All this combined to create the settings on Dark Souls across 3 games, with its Role Playing Game, Boss-Battle orientated game-play using a range of weapons from swords and shields to magic. What interested me was how the UI of these games are created without being too obtrusive and ruining the immersion of these fictional worlds, whilst still retaining functionality and usability with the blend of the aesthetics and designs of these worlds being created.

This idea of creating functional and usable through applying real world methods to the UI whilst not being obtuse to the artistic settings and worlds being created is an area I’d perhaps be interested in going further in depth, not just within the context of the project but potentially a career path? Again drawing on the previous project, taking this context but for science fiction film interfaces was behind one of the reasons for my interest in the project.

Doing The Task

The final question I posed follows:

What wound happen (to x) if we incorporated sci-fi interfaces (to y e.g. a hover-board in z film) into everyday life.

This questioned allowed later for the potential trial some various difference instances of different technologies within films to real world situations, through usage of various user testing and other practitioner techniques.

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The 8 Ideas

  1. Holographic 3D Smartphones
  2. No Distance – Between physical communication, Bio-metrics for communication like in cyberpunk?
  3. Blue words – text and information appearing blue, in a real world setting how would people with colour blindness be affected by it?
  4. Gesture over touch – More gesture based interfaces over touch screen
  5. Sci-Fi Kitchen – how would a futuristic kitchen look like and the interactions involved if it was futuristic. e.g. a chopping board that provides assistance to how you cut?
  6. Different Sci-Fi Interfaces based on locations and environments
  7. Bio-metrics artificial body
  8. Sci-Fi Tube – Science Fiction underground, tells individual passengers when to leave for example using virtual tech?

The 2 Proposal Ideas

No Distance – How are physical distances are reduced or brought to you through science-fiction technologies and interfaces, through bio-metrics or virtual reality and AR for examples?

Sci-Fi Interface Environments – How different interfaces could be envisioned in different locations such as a restroom, an office, a house, how would these science fiction technologies intertwine with these environments in aiding or supporting them in some form.

MDP (Major Digital Project) Briefing

Although there is no specific detailing of the briefing the aims include ‘the proposal and production of a self-directed major project’. Developing a rigorous project proposal taking into account of individual experiences and skills – both practical and theoretical gained over the last three years. Like previous projects, evidence knowledge of key practitioners, theories and developments related to the projects subject area and place the work that you wish to undertake within this knowledge.

‘This project will form an important part of your design portfolio and is usually displayed at your graduate exhibition’. However, it was noted that the MDP doesn’t have to be designed for the end goal of being presented in a exhibition context, and vice vera if your chosen area if related to exhibition related design, you are able to design for it.


Project Crit

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I noted that throughout each presentation I gave I never specifically defined what an Interface was, which in itself is hard to define as the term branches over many different fields and can mean different things.

Science Fiction Films have a variety of different contexts e.g. time produced, what time is it in the context of the film. What are the specific sub-genres of the film etc. These all have a direct influence over the ‘interfaces’ of the films, but what do we mean by ‘interface’.
‘Make it so: Interaction Design Lessons from Science Fiction’ by Nathan Shedroff & Christopher Noessel define an interface as “all parts of a thing that enable it’s use”.

Another definition could be offered in 1987 by Italian critic Giancarlo Barbacetto in his introduction to Design Interface.

‘Whatever “lies between” is called interface, whatever allows us to link two different elements, to reconcile them, to put them into communication.’

Furthermore when exploring the Kubrick Archive I found in some of Kubricks’ Research Material. There was a booklet on ‘Apollo Terminology’ created by NASA in August of 1963.

There definition of what an Interface is follows:


The point or area where a relationship exists between two or more parts, systems, programmes, persons, or procedures wherein physical or functional compatibility is required.


After presenting my project some feedback is that the although I had some prototype’s it was more of a start rather than a fully developed prototype.

Some suggestions was to develop the film like a video essay looking at specific categories for example looking at the the transports of different sci-fi films and compiling it into one video.

Further potentially having a variety of these for different categories, and designing the process as a tool that other people could use to filter through an array of different films.

Further Development of Second Prototype

Version 1 of Prototype

After creating the first version of my prototype I wanted to expand it to show a variety of colours from the screenshots of that movie. Using processing to find the average colour of each individual screenshot and display it in sequence of when it was shown in the film.

Version 2 of Prototype for the film ‘Starship Troopers’ (1999)

After completing the strip for one film, I then had to organise it so it would leave a gap for each film so it didn’t compile into one long line of colours.

Once I had organised each strip of colours into sections I then wanted to organise it further by adding some text so it was easier to tell what each film was.

Version 4 of Prototype

However I found that I was running out of time, so I was unable to complete this for the presentation. Furthermore I had to create a “messy” copy, as I just duplicated the code rather than having the code loop for each film, however in terms of visual changes it did the exact thing I wanted

Second Prototype

As I started later of the video archive which was taking up a lot of limited time I decided to go for a quicker process while editing. I went through the films I had available and took screenshots of the interfaces, so I had a broad variety of different interfaces from each film.

Screenshots of the film ‘Alien’ (1979)

After having this range of screenshots from different films I wanted to find a way I can quickly identify key elements of each interface for example take up a similar task used in ‘Make It So’ shown below.


Chart by Shedroff and Chris Noessel

However, they noted that the test itself should be taken with a grain of salt as there are a number of problems regarding the results in the content and also the process. For example, the interfaces they looked at where screen-based and the adjusted the saturation of the compiled image to 100 percent.

First version of the prototype

I decided to do this method using Processing, I ran an image through processing and it would find the average colour of the screenshot and display it on the top left hand corner of the screen.

Adobe Kuler Screenshot Swatches

Simultaneously, I did a similar process using Adobe Kuler so instead, of just showing the average colour I’d instead get a colour swatch of a variety of colours used in the interface. However, I found that for some colour swatches I had to manually tweak to get the colours used in the interface itself rather then colours of objects outside of the area.


Creating the Archive

First, to create an archive you need to have a archive of Science Fiction Videos to begin with..

Secondly, I need to have it in a digital format so I can edit and go through as I wish to create this Archive of Sci-Fi clips.


After obtaining the digital copies of the films through various sources I then went onto Adobe Premiere Pro to go through the movie and edit out the film so it was purely when an interface was used or shown. I kept some segments of films such as the ‘void-kamf’ machine stating up to give some context on what the whole device looks like.


After I went through and edited a film I then compiled it all into one clip so it had all the interfaces from one film in one segment.


However, one problem I found was going through the whole film with the amount of time I had left took many hours so I had to limit myself to a particular decade to study from, rather than have a range.

Video Archive Prototype

To research further into these Science Fiction Interfaces, firstly I need to collect a variety of films to analyse. For this I decided as a possible prototype to make a “Video Archive” which has scenes from science fiction films of a variety of different interfaces. This would then enable to explore different elements to these science fiction films and potentially categorise them – look at for example different modes of transport between Science Fiction films. How they function, what their purpose is for (are they for transport of people or cargo), and what are the interfaces within them.

In Feng Zhu’s 2nd part of Designing for Science Fiction he talks about in order to design for science fiction you need to immerse yourself into actual science, and draw inspiration from what’s new and popular.

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But also to draw inspiration from natural science or science fiction of the past. Seeing technology in past Science Fiction, that we now have readily available today – or things that were going to be “technology of the future” become void. This ever-changing shift in what is “Sci-Fi” and what is real and believable has always been an interesting subject point for me. Hopefully, through this creation of the video archive I might be able to drawn light from it’s source inspirations and see why set’s and pieces where designed in that particular way or style.