5 Sci-Fi User Interfaces We’d Love to See In Real Life

Posted on Mar 25 2014 - 4:44pm by Jonathan Encarnacion

Readers with memory before 1980 will recall how cumbersome tech was.  For all that punch-card computers and briefcase phones could do back then, users often had to adjust their lifestyle to accommodate the tech.

Those born after America Online free-internet trial CDs live a different paradigm: nowadays, new and upcoming advancements demand technology fit our lifestyles. When it comes to the gadgets we use today, sci-fi is among what we’d have to thank for inspiration.  Here is a list of the top 5 things we’d love to see converted into real-life gizmos, a la Star Trek’s PADDs and Jetsons’ Microwaves:

5. AI Assistants (Eden of the East)

Juiz: It’s not just an app, it’s a frequently used contact

With every random idea that pops in our head is the wish “If only I had the time…”  If we all had a Juiz, we wouldn’t need the time; we’d just have to make a call.

In Eden of the East, Akira’s phone provides direct communication with a supercomputer assistant named Juiz, who can help with just about anything.  We’re not just talking help on homework or the best route to a venue, here.  Need a path cleared through existing rush hour traffic? Juiz can do that.  Orchestrating a legion of unwitting NEETs to come together and avert a national crisis?  She’ll help set it up.  Campaign to become king of Japan?  Juiz sees all the angles, gets the algorithms working in that favor.

Okay, maybe Siri going that far would be a tad much.  But getting Siri to check your accounts, contacts, and re-tweets to organize a party you won’t soon forget, that’d be cool.

Current Predecessors: Siri, Evi, Windows Cortana (announced)


Homework: not just for laptops anymore

In MINORITY REPORT, the 3D interface used by Tom Cruise came with the promise that it could actually exist in 50 years.

Pre-production involved the filmmakers meeting with futurists, resulting in a “2054 bible” filled with pragmatic predictions on what future tech could have in store at the midpoint of the 21st century.

The film’s stylistic approach gives a bit of crudeness to the interface, which has cleaned up since in movies like IRON MAN and AVENGERS (in concept, of course).  With the ‘style’ at which tech is advancing, it might be realistic to expect this tech to look as clean as Marvel’s vision when 2054 does come to pass.  Check the link below for the Fin Ring, for example: it looks a lot less gaudy than the finger stubs Cruise wears to manipulate his screens.

It’d be really cool to test-fit all the parts of a Mark VII Halloween costume ‘holographically’ and do a dry run in a VR environment, no?  

Avengers Tower 2 (800x450)

“Nice job – let’s head to the build stage”

Current Predecessors: 3D Holographic Projectors, Fin Wearable Ring

3. Augmented Reality (Ghost in the Shell SAC)

Incoming call: “Dinner’s ready, come downstairs.”

Michio Kaku, physicist and host of Physics of the Impossible, has mentioned that our grandchildren will probably laugh at the fact that we huddled around screens to get stuff done.

Why carry a phone & use a laptop when it can all be in your eye and eardrum, streamed from the threads of your collar?

One of the best things about the Ghost in the Shell series – especially in Stand Alone Complex and 2nd GIG – is that it showed the how such technologies could change the way we interact, depending on how far we’d want to integrate it into our physical selves.  Some criminals were so far into the cybernetic spectrum that it took similarly-enhanced members of Section 9 to take them down, if only for the required processing speed to match the antagonist’s ability.

For now, we’re getting rid of wires, via things like Bluetooth mice and audio peripherals; Wifi routers are another obvious example.  A Samsung Note 3 packs more punch than most computers of the previous decade, and fits in your pocket.  Smartwatches and Smartglasses like the much-hyped Google Glass lead the way with wearable tech.  And check out the video below showcasing a neural interface if you haven’t seen one yet.

Current Predecessors: Layar, Smartglasses, Smartwatch, Neural Interface

2. Everything That Makes Up the TARDIS (Doctor Who)

“… and it’s mine”

Bespoke tech, generating its own, self-contained, infinite physical storage space.  Powered by a captured star, locked in the moment before a supernova.  With customized desktop themes (take that, Intel).

We’re entering the realm of high concept here.  But that doesn’t mean there isn’t plausible scientific theory to back some of it up, albeit inaccessible.

So, to be able to interact with any point in space and time, in a ride that can change an infinite number of ways to fit your needs, what would be required?  Some of the materials don’t even exist in a natural sense, as physicists Dr. Dave Tippet and Dr. Dave Tsang have noted.  Their paper, Traversable Achronal Retrograde Domains in Spacetime (notice the acronym) explains what a TARDIS requires in order to work, given the laws of known physics.

But achieving the ability to create 1. non-extant materials, and 2. harness an infinite energy source is well beyond our current capability.  For the far-reaching, one can refer to another exotic theory: the concept of the universe as a ‘hologram’.   Proposed by theorists Gerard ‘t Hooft and refined by Leonard Susskind, this theory postulates that the universe is in-actuality two-dimensional, with the data on its surface ‘projecting’ in a manner that is perceived as three dimensions-plus-time.

Other theorists go even further to propose that this data could be subject to manipulation and, as Michael Talbot once considered, we could end up writing our own laws of physics as we go along.  Perhaps we would create the materials and harness the energy source form there.

“Souped-up that engine and made it a low-rider, eh?”

If you’re still with us after above, check out the awesome TED Talk below discussing an actual experiment where a piece of visible silicon was made to exist in two places at once.  If what we’re aiming for is a TARDIS one day, consider it ‘one small step for man…’

Current Predecessors: a visible quantum object, Quantum Computing, Type 1A supernovae

1. Magic (THOR, Stargate SG-1)

Asgard International Airport

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” – Arthur C. Clarke.

A few plays on this quote have been found in Marvel’s Thor films and related spin-off stories (see the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode ‘Yes Men’).

In THOR, when Odin casts out his belligerent son, the stripping of Thor’s garments appear to have been pulled by the sheer will of the All-Father alone.  And before he throws Mjolnir after him, he whispers the instructions “He whosoever holds this hammer…”

“No hammer-slinging for a month!”

A vocal and emotive interface, yielding to the commands of Odin, the only person with ‘administrator access’?  If they’re capable of forging a powerful hammer within the heart of a dying star, such an interpretation is likely.  Another way to think of it is that Asgardians are so far advanced, they can speak of their tools and methods without technical jargon – jargon could be beyond them.

Stargate SG-1, back in the day, characterized their own variation of the Asgardians in a similar way.  They even took it a few steps further, with races such as the Nox, Ori, and Ancients possessing technology that seemed magical when compared to the Asgardians themselves.

Dr. Daniel Jackson holds a fireball – nothing up his sleeve

Imagine: a future where we’d all have internal quantum computers, passed on in our DNA, with our minds as the user interface.  And that’d be just for starters.  Because when thinking of magic in the extreme, such technology would probably be terribly obsolete.

We got really heady with #2, so as Bane once said, let’s not stand on ceremony here.  Arthur C. Clarke’s statement captures most of #1 in spirit, and from what Kevin Feige said in a recent interview, the concept for an upcoming Doctor Strange film may be traversing this ground.

High-tech concepts, when done right, are easily enjoyed.  Physicists like Brian Cox like to think that today’s young sci-fi escapists might grow up to try and make these reality one day, despite the current vanguard saying most of it can’t be done.  We’d love to see that happen, if even just to bend a spoon.

Current Predecessor: Enlightenment

1 Comment so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. HalfBlackCanuck March 25, 2014 at 5:02 pm - Reply

    I’d love to get me hands on these, and clearly some are closer than others. I wonder how many of these will come to pass and what will look like some of those projections from old Popular Science/ Scientific America magazines.

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