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GUI Technology

Minority Report's Legacy of Terrible Interfaces 305

jfruh writes "More than a decade ago, the special effects artists working the Steven Spielberg film Minority Report synthesized experimental thinking about GUIs to produce a floating interface that Tom Cruise manipulated with his hands. In 2013, surrounded by iOS and Android and Windows 8 devices, we use stripped down versions of this interface every day — and commercial artist Christian Brown thinks that's a bad thing. Such devices may look cinematic, he argues, but they completely ignore the kinds of haptic and textured feedback that have defined how we interact with devices for centuries." Speaking of Minority Report interfaces — a new armband sensor using a gesture-based control scheme is the latest gadget to invoke references to the movie.
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Minority Report's Legacy of Terrible Interfaces

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  • That and... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Press2ToContinue ( 2424598 ) * on Tuesday February 26, 2013 @07:05PM (#43019537)

    1) Gray text
    2) Animations
    3) Swiping
    4) Hiding interface controls
    5) No menus
    6) buttons anywhere all over the screen
    7) "sexy" interfaces

  • by RazorSharp ( 1418697 ) on Tuesday February 26, 2013 @07:05PM (#43019539)

    I never understood why anyone thought that the computer in Minority Report was something worth pursuing. Futuristic computers in Hollywood movies have always been designed to look cinematic with no regard for how they would actually function. Having an intuitive interface isn't important for Hollywood directors, having something that is interesting for the audience and makes it obvious what's going on is.

    One common example of this is maps. 3D maps are all the rage in Hollywood movies, even when a simple address would suffice. But an address has no cinematic quality, a 3D map does.

  • Re:That and... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 26, 2013 @07:12PM (#43019607)

    From TFA: "This isn't to argue that touchscreens are useless. They’re a great way to cheaply interact with a small electronic device—like, say, a phone."

    Betamax was better. VHS was cheaper. Better doesn't always win.

  • no feedback (Score:5, Insightful)

    by roc97007 ( 608802 ) on Tuesday February 26, 2013 @07:18PM (#43019653) Journal

    The biggest problem as I see it is that you can't feel the controls. Like all the interfaces in ST:TNG, there is too much dependence on having to look where your hands are. I think that's a distraction at a very basic level that we haven't fully noticed yet, let alone dealt with in any meaningful way.

    Think of your old-school cell phone. You could make a call, even text, without looking at it. (Or, I could. Your mileage may vary, I guess.) Can you do that with your glass-smooth smartphone now?

    And yeah, I know. "Siri, Call Police!" "Calling Portobello. When would you like reservations?"

    As I see it, the big difference between physical controls and colors and text on a touchscreen is that you can manipulate physical controls while looking elsewhere. There are times when that may be kinda important.

  • Re:That and... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by shugah ( 881805 ) on Tuesday February 26, 2013 @07:19PM (#43019655)
    While LCD monitor makers are striving to improve contrast ratios and reduce glare – blacker blacks, broader viewing angles and deeper, more vivid colours, futurists envision a world of high glare, transparent monitors where ambient lighting and artifacts on both sides of the glass wash out contrast and colours? Absurd.
  • "centuries"? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mark-t ( 151149 ) <> on Tuesday February 26, 2013 @07:24PM (#43019699) Journal
    What kinds of devices have we been interacting with for centuries? That's what I'd like to know.
  • Re:That and... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 26, 2013 @07:24PM (#43019707)

    Replacing a buttons with simple text on them for cute little icons drives me absolutely insane. It's almost like it's a goal to make the lives of people who have to instruct others on how to use their products harder.

    "Click the send button" becomes "Ok, do you see the little box with a picture of an envelope in it with some lines next to it.. in the upper left corner of the screen? You don't. Keep looking"

  • Re:That and... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by green1 ( 322787 ) on Tuesday February 26, 2013 @07:38PM (#43019839)

    how often do you see a cell phone, tablet, or even laptop with a matte screen? They're almost all high glare nightmares.
    The makers have ignored the best way of reducing glare because a shiny screen looks better, and therefore sells better, right up until the point where you try to actually use the thing.
    The only way around it is to crank up the brightness to try to overcome the glare, kills battery life, but it's worth it for a shiny screen when it's off right????

  • Cadillac (Score:5, Insightful)

    by snspdaarf ( 1314399 ) on Tuesday February 26, 2013 @07:39PM (#43019843)
    Which is why I am stunned that Cadillac is using this in a car. In fact, they are bragging that this is better than buttons. Because what we need in our cars is more shit that takes our eyes off the road.
  • by dgharmon ( 2564621 ) on Tuesday February 26, 2013 @07:40PM (#43019853) Homepage
    "In 2013, surrounded by iOS and Android and Windows 8 devices, we use stripped down versions of this interface every day"

    No we don't, iOS and the rest were never based on anything from Minority Report. The problem with a Minority Report type of floating interface is that you arms very quickly get fatigued. See an early 3D file system viewer ..

    FSN -- the IRIX 3D file system tool from Jurassic Park []

    SGI Fusion []
  • by Let's All Be Chinese ( 2654985 ) on Tuesday February 26, 2013 @07:48PM (#43019919)

    You ever wondered why everything had to become GUI-shaped, why people genuinely thought that if only everyone would use GUIs then productivity would soar?

    The answer is simple: marketing. It looks shiny. It's got dancing rodents. This sells.

    Hollywood is made of shiny visuals. And, of course, designers love good looking form to the point that function can get skimped on. redmond has been doing their level best to serve up their version of MovieOS, down to the security problems.

    This is also why touchscreens got resurrected. Much sexier to have the display span the entire phone than only half and the rest be buttons. And can possibly be more intuitive than having something present with custom buttons for you to poke at, hm?

    That there are serious downsides to both GUIs (eg. very hard to script and automate compared to CLIs) and touchscreens ("gorilla arm", for one, lack of tactile feedback for another) pales into insignificance next to the sheer power of a shiny all-singing all-dancing presentation carefully serving up some smooth-looking lies.

    Case in point: The new "windows 8" interface and it getting pushed through no matter what, on phones AND desktops. They're giving a powerful message here, and the delivery simply trumps whatever you may want.

    This isn't (anti-)fanboiism, by the by: I could also trot out examples from, say, apple, but they're not nearly as clumsy and blunt about it. You don't get much choice either, but the delivery is so much better ("reality distortion field") that it causes symptoms of religious cults in its adherents, making it that much harder to illustrate with without causing instant flamewar.

    And part of it is indeed that emotions are involved, often enough deliberately so.

  • Re:no feedback (Score:4, Insightful)

    by roc97007 ( 608802 ) on Tuesday February 26, 2013 @07:49PM (#43019927) Journal

    Star Trek is actually a great illustration of this, there were times in the original series where the actors had their hands on controls but attention focused on the action for dramatic effect, they didn't need to constantly look down as in the Next Generation.

    Exactly. In the old series, the controls may have been in weird shapes and not labeled unless the audience needed them to be, but they were physical controls, and the odd shapes could actually help the operator manipulate them by feel. All that is lost in modern-looking interfaces.

  • Re:That and... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by anakha ( 88297 ) on Tuesday February 26, 2013 @08:15PM (#43020117)

    You can add Google's fscking paper plane icon they use as the send button in their Gmail app to that list. Fsckers.

  • Re:That and... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GrahamCox ( 741991 ) on Tuesday February 26, 2013 @08:40PM (#43020291) Homepage
    The obvious solution is that we need research into finding a glass-like material that can be switched between shiny ("sales mode") and matte ("use mode'").
  • Re:no feedback (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DragonWriter ( 970822 ) on Tuesday February 26, 2013 @08:47PM (#43020341)

    There are some things TNG predicted well, but a few glaringly funny missteps in retrospect. My two favorite are:

    1) Piles of PADDs. There's a few scenes where someone is "doing a lot of reading" or "has a lot of reports to file" and so they have a bunch of PADDs strewn about their desk. Little did I know I needed a separate Kindle for each ebook I read.

    Lots of the time, they are cross-referencing things in parallel, which is inconvenient on a single screen of that size. With replicators, PADDs are presumably literally as cheap as dirt, rather than luxury gadgets, so there's no real reason not to have one for each document when you need to do that.

  • Re:That and... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Tuesday February 26, 2013 @09:10PM (#43020505) Journal

    I think that's to make it easier to translate the software.

    The McDonalds UI, for when your staff are illiterate in six different languages...

  • by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Tuesday February 26, 2013 @09:30PM (#43020633) Homepage

    If a tree falls in the woods and no-one is there to hear it, is the next tree to fall guilty of plagiarism?

  • Re:That and... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @07:32AM (#43022927)

    They are movies, with fictional stories!
    The holographic or transparent screens allows to take shots of the actors face.
    The crazy gestures are so the actors can be emotionally expressive to the viewers.

    If durring the 80s we had a movie of 2013, that got it right it would seem comical in the sense where teenagers are getting bullied over a tiny glowing box. And they are all just crouched tapping the little box. There is no emotion for the movies.

    That is why they had 2013 with big screen tv that video conferences, it made the antagonist seem larger than life and someone for the actor to react too.

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