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Usability in the Movies -- Top 10 Bloopers

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the toomanysecrets dept.

Movies 382

Ant writes "A UseIt.com article talks about user interfaces (UIs) in film that are more exciting than they are realistic, and heroes have far too easy a time using foreign systems. The way Hollywood depicts usability could fill many a blooper reel. Here are 10 of the most egregious mistakes made by moviemakers. From the article: '3. The 3D UI - In Minority Report, the characters operate a complex information space by gesturing wildly in the space in front of their screens. As Tog found when filming Starfire, it's very tiring to keep your arms in the air while using a computer. Gestures do have their place, but not as the primary user interface for office systems.'"

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382 comments

I do not care (4, Funny)

houghi (78078) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358018)

As long as I can just 'overrule' every password that is blocked, I am fine with it.

Re:I do not care (-1, Troll)

faitzy (857887) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358068)

You're mama said you should spend more time drinking eggnog and less time looking at /.

Re:I do not care (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17358170)

Well my momma is telling you to learn the difference between you're (YOU ARE) and your (POSSESSIVE).

This is a Unix system. (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17358022)

I know this!

Re:This is a Unix system. (4, Funny)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358088)

One of the more Prophetic moments in Movies. Who would have known that Apple, a few years later, would be running a version of Unix a little girl could use.

Linux (4, Insightful)

oGMo (379) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358248)

Well, far before Apple (by about a decade) making Unix available to the common man, there was Linux. What was funny about that then was the unlikelihood of a kid having access to a Unix system. What was even funnier a few years later (by 97 or 98) was the fact that it was no longer unlikely! Kids, even 12-year-olds, had access to Linux and were using it and learning it.

Really, when I saw this one, I had to check the date on the article, because I thought it was quite old. The biggest examples of most of these are things like the first Mission Impossible, Independence Day, and as mentioned, Jurassic Park.

Re:Linux (2, Insightful)

MikeFM (12491) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358526)

I had a Linux system about the time I was 14 and I could use it very well. I'll take argument with the notion that UI is inconsistant and hard to use in Unix. Sitting down at a bash command line and most basic XWindow apps is the same on any system - even before KDE and Gnome made them more colorful. Of course the interface used in Jurrasic Park is retarded.. wasn't it some sort of experimental file explorer by SGI?

Re:This is a Unix system. (1)

solitas (916005) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358358)

>> I know this!

Agreeing to say lines like that, it's not surprising that she did more work _before_ jurassic park than _after_ it.

Ridiculous... (5, Insightful)

aendeuryu (844048) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358026)

Ok ok, we get the point about the UI in Minority Report, but COME ON, it's not like it's the most implausible thing about the movie. Same with Star Trek... Oh yeah, a computer that speaks and understands English, that's weird. Fifteen space alien races we encounter for the first time that speak and understand English, TOTALLY NORMAL. A kid saving the day with a 3d unix interface. Yeah, that just totally ruined the whole movie for me, because up until that point I was totally believing in THE DINOSAURS...

Methinks a bit of perspective is called for...

Re:Ridiculous... (4, Insightful)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358046)

Yes, but on the other hand a glaring flaw in the depiction of a knowledge area with which you are familiar can detract from the experience. I'm sure there are many doctors and biomedical researchers that cringe every time they see movies about bioweapons and genetically-engineered mutant monsters.

Re:Ridiculous... (4, Insightful)

aendeuryu (844048) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358102)

But for the most part, these anomalies serve a purpose -- they help push the story forward, or at the very least keep it from getting pushed back. Consider this... every Slashdotter here is an expert when it comes to toilet use. Do we cry out in anger when an entire movie goes by and nobody uses the can? Of course not. It's just not important to the story, and I consider a character that never uses the facilities during the course of most movies' narrative timeframe to be a LOT more unrealistic than an overly flashy GUI.

Movies, ESPECIALLY Hollywood sci-fi movies, aren't made primarily to be depictions of reality. Verisimilitude has its place, but not when it's going to slow down the narrative progress.

Re:Ridiculous... (5, Interesting)

Hooya (518216) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358470)

> ... nobody uses the can ...

but then, in Pulp Fiction, whenever something serious is going down, John Travolta is in the can.

i) Robbery at the diner.
ii) Mia ODing
iii) Bruce Willis returning to his apartment to fetch his daddys watch - consequently ends up shooting Travolta while he is *in the can*.

So, just wanted to point out that there is at least one movie where 'can usage' is central to the story.

Re:Ridiculous... (1, Interesting)

rynthetyn (618982) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358334)

That would be the reason why my family absolutely hates watching most movies with me. I have enough of a photographic memory that if I've read something somewhere, no matter when it was or how old I was, I remember it. Combine that with the fact that as a child, my mother's response to "I'm bored" was "Read a book," and her response to "But I don't have any books to read" was "Read the encyclopedia," and the upshot is that between reading the encyclopedia and all of the random books I've read over the years, I've been acquiring a vast compendium of marginally useful information on entirely unrelated topics from about the time I learned how to read. It's great for playing board games, but not so much for watching movies. There are too many topics that I'm sufficiently familiar with that I can recognize glaring errors. And, I figure that if I know enough to recognize the error, then probably everything else is wrong too, which then compulsively sends me online to find out exactly what all of the errors are (and which ends up adding new information to my useless information database, which further ruins movies for me and those watching with me).

Re:Ridiculous... (1)

Rakshasa Taisab (244699) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358084)

The point of watching is that you suspend your belief, but if they force you to do so on something stupid like the UI then it ruins the movie.

And also, I don't agree with the original article on the Minority Report UI. It's not an UI for office work, if he stands there waving his hands for more than 15 minutes then he already failed. And the information presented did not appear easily processed for display in 2D.

I liked the UI in Minority Report (2, Interesting)

jinxidoru (743428) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358236)

I remember watching Minority Report and having the opposite response. The UI seemed very plausible. If we are talking about writing up word documents, then no. But if we are talking about video editing and imaging, it seemed very realistic. In fact, it was so realistic that someone created a set of input devices very similar to those in the movie. I remember there being an article here about it a few months ago. Someone was playing warcraft.

Re:Ridiculous... (1)

1u3hr (530656) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358420)

but COME ON, it's not like it's the most implausible thing about the movie.

Yeah. The article was about user interfaces, not impluasible movie science in general. There is a serious point towards the end, that because we see these magical UIs so often on TV and in the movies, a lot of people, and decision makers, want them in real life, no matter how impractical or counter productive they'd be. Life imitates art, and that's not always good. I've seen several stories about implementations of the "Minority Report interface". None took off. As TFA says, they're just tiring and inefficient. Similarly for most voice interfaces. And how much expensive hardware is going to be used to support the "mouth watering graphics" of Vista? How much more work will that help the user get done?

Ridiculous...Imagination is overrated. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17358502)

"And how much expensive hardware is going to be used to support the "mouth watering graphics" of Vista?

And for the billionth time, not as much as slashdotters would like you to believe.

"How much more work will that help the user get done?"

With PCI-X's bidirectional interface and usage of the GPU? I'd say more than you think.

For a bunch of nerds you all have the worse imaginations I've ever seen.

Login screens (4, Funny)

Salvance (1014001) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358028)

My favorite is always the login screens. Someone turns on the computer, and within a second or two a big generic login screen pops up. What's funny is that it usually doesn't have a user name, just a password. Then once logged in, all of a sudden the character can access any file instantaneously.

You've Got Mail is Always Good News is a good one from the list though. I'd love to see the movie of the same name change so that Meg Ryan opens up her Mac notebook to a "You've got mail", which turns out to be 37 advertisements for penis enlargement pills and viagra. Hehehe...

Hardware issues. (1)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358030)

I realize that this was more about user interfaces than hardware, but I feel that there are as many hardware blunders in movies as software.

I remember watching "The Lone Gunman" one day (thank God that show didn't make it!) and they needed more processing power to crack a password to take over a hijacked plane. "We could do this if had one of those new Octium 4's!" Well, they get one, right before the plane hits the building, they pull out their existing processor, I assume and Octium 3, and drop in the new Octium 4, without so much as powering the machine off... and BAM! They had their password and saved the plane. Oh, and no processors had any type of thermal anything!

Well, just my $0.02 anyway.

(Oh yea, your mother uses Macintosh!)

Re:Hardware issues. (1)

zaxus (105404) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358340)

Oh yea, your mother uses Macintosh!

Actually, my mother uses a PC. My wife uses the Macintosh... :-)

Old Hardware issues. (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17358430)

"I remember watching "The Lone Gunman" one day (thank God that show didn't make it!) and they needed more processing power to crack a password to take over a hijacked plane. "We could do this if had one of those new Octium 4's!" Well, they get one, right before the plane hits the building, they pull out their existing processor, I assume and Octium 3, and drop in the new Octium 4, without so much as powering the machine off... and BAM! They had their password and saved the plane. Oh, and no processors had any type of thermal anything!"

Nothing odd. On mainframes you can pull complete assembies off, and add without powering down. Some of the old timers here can tell you of hardware that could take almost anything and survive. It's just consumer equipment that has lowered everyone's expectations.

Re:Hardware issues. (1)

jwlidtnet (453355) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358456)

Chris Carter's TV shows (and, apparently, anything related to them) always had terrible computer "simulations," long after it became even borderline acceptable for this to be the case. Millennium is a particular offender; I simply can't fathom the logic of having a "nerd character" (I forget the guy's name, but the Season 2 character who was introduced seemingly to be the "lone gunman" for the show) who gets things wrong so frequently. Frank Black's entire computer is a mockery of the reality of the internet.

searching is easy too (2, Insightful)

sharp-bang (311928) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358036)

He forgot the highly accurate Hollywood search engine, which enabled Tom Cruise to put a Bible verse into an Internet search engine in Mission Impossible and get three hits, yet not support Boolean searching until Deanna Troi invents it in Star Trek: the Next Generation.

Re:searching is easy too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17358312)

Heh, I always wonder at the lost technology of "fuses" or circuit breakers too.

The Star Trek universe must have lost that technology too - it seems like control panels were always bursting into showers of sparks...

#10? (4, Informative)

mar1no (559482) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358038)

Leaving aside the plausibility of a 12-year-old knowing Unix, simply knowing Unix is not enough to immediately use any application running on the system. Yes, she could probably have used vi on the security terminal. But the specialized security system would have required some learning time -- significant learning time if it were built on Unix, which has notoriously inconsistent user interface design and thus makes it harder to transfer skills from one application to the next.


This guy didn't do his research. It wasn't that specialized of a security system.

http://fsv.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]

Re:#10? (1)

MarkvW (1037596) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358404)

I had the same problem, but the velociraptor banging on the door diverted my attention from the precocious kid with the computer--especially when it starts jumping up to get them in the ceiling (utterly brilliant moviemaking!!!!!). I reckon Spielberg was to some extent or another at that time making movies for kids (his kids?). A kid, rather than a computer-obsessive adult geek, would look at the scene much differently.

How it should work (3, Interesting)

jours (663228) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358040)

What, am I the only one reading this crap on Christmas Eve?

Think about how tedious a computer scene would be if the user had to navigate Windows, KDE, or even Mac OS X. While the herione was trying to find her husband's company's secret documents she'd log in ... click on My Computer ... then My Network Places ... then log in again ... then private -> secret -> projects -> 2006 -> world domination ... and then wait for Office to load.

The way it works in the movies is the way it should work. Log in, type "find Kyoto meeting minutes", a bunch of matrix-ish characters scroll across the screen, and there it is.

Re:How it should work (5, Funny)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358066)

I read a one-liner that said, "Artificial Intelligence is the science of making computers behave like they do in the movies."

Re:How it should work (1)

Inmatarian (814090) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358122)

Oh man would that be sweet. Of course, the experienced sh user would tell you that the way you typed it is roughly the way it already works. I need to read up on the man page behind find, but yeah.

Incidentally, I have my browser's homepage point to the bookmarks html file in my profile, so, say I type in slashdot, autofind goes straight to the link.

Re:How it should work (4, Interesting)

edwardpickman (965122) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358150)

It could be a nice story point that while they are desperately trying to save the world their XP computer starts constantly warning them that they need to update their system. It's not really a joke because I used to have my XP machine plugged into the internet. Well about a month ago I was in the middle of an important render when it decided it didn't want to wait any longer to install an update. It kept prompting me that it was about to reboot. I spent two hours every five minutes telling it not to reboot until the render finished. I immediately yanked the internet connection and haven't updated it since. I can see a hero trying to enter the code to stop a nuclear attack when the windows machine tells him it's going to reboot to update his system.

Re:How it should work (5, Informative)

syzler (748241) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358260)

The way it works in the movies is the way it should work. Log in, type "find Kyoto meeting minutes", a bunch of matrix-ish characters scroll across the screen, and there it is.

I guess you don't use OS X. Apple aready has this feature, it is called Spotlight. Commnad-Space &ltsaerch term&gt and OS X will provide a list of matching files based on Meta data and file contents. Okay, it is missing the matrix style characters, but it is close.

Re:How it should work (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358360)

Think about how tedious a computer scene would be if the user had to navigate Windows, KDE, or even Mac OS X. While the herione was trying to find her husband's company's secret documents she'd log in ... click on My Computer ... then My Network Places ... then log in again ... then private -> secret -> projects -> 2006 -> world domination ... and then wait for Office to load.


Uh, in the movies, as in real life, there would probably be a nice icon on the desktop. Now, only in the movies would there be an animated background that points to it, though. Also, movie desktops seem devoid of any other icons, other than that one...

Or, in the case of OS X, there would probably be an icon in the dock... and given OS X's ability to have icon overlays and bouncing, would probably highlight itself that way too right after login.

Flailing arm interface (1)

Rosonowski (250492) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358044)

As far as I could tell, that was just the interface for a particular computer. It might be tiring, but I think the idea is to be able to correlate data in a very fast manner. Other computers in the movie appeared to use a more "traditional" interface.

Disagree with the Star Trek reference (1)

edwardpickman (965122) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358050)

I do understand what they were driving at but the whole point of drastically advanced technology is that it would require less effort and input. You didn't hear them verbally entering code they were always asking for a complex taste to be performed. That task might require a dozen people normally but the computer is able to do it without assistence. When they performed more intensive tasks they did use a manual interface. Voice is inefficent for data entry but if the system is designed to run on it's own then the most efficent method is voice. Which takes longer writing an email to a coworker in the next cubical to ask if they have performed a task or ask them about it verbally? The computer wasn't a computer as we think of them it was a crewmember replacing dozens if not hundreds of crewmembers.

Re:Disagree with the Star Trek reference (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17358332)

Yes, but we're talking about a mind-boggling advance in AI technology before Star Trek-type voice control can become a reality.

Take my favorite example, from the episode Mirror, Mirror:

Kirk: "Computer, produce all data relevant to the recent ion storm. Correlate following hypothesis - could a storm of such magnitude cause a power surge in the transporter circuits creating a momentary interdimensional contact with a parallel universe?"
Computer: "Affirmative."
Kirk: "At such a moment, could persons in each universe, in the act of beaming, transpose with their counterparts in the other universe?"
Computer: "Affirmative."
Kirk: "Could conditions necessary to such an event be created artificially using the ship's power?
Computer: "Affirmative."

Now that is one smart computer!

Oh, wait, I guess not... obviously, you just need to program the computer to output "affirmative" after every question. :)

Unix (1)

HairyCanary (688865) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358052)

"... Unix, which has notoriously inconsistent user interface design ..."


I do not think this is specific to Unix. Windows is equally as bad. The most consistent modern OS I have encountered is OSX, and even then there are a number of notable exceptions.

Overall it was really a pointless article. Yes, movies frequently play fast and loose with reality. So what? Is that not what movies are all about?

I think it's just a slow news day. Come to think of it, why the heck am I spending time on Slashdot on Christmas Eve??? LOL.

Re:Unix (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17358232)

The interface to "unix" if you follow the GNU standards is incredibly consistant. Figure out what command you want to run (this is consistant, just not very user friendly). run "man command" and find the flag you care about, chances are you can guess most of the flags you want. Type the command with the flags after it. Every unix system has sh installed. That sounds pretty consistant to me. In the rare case where "man" does work run "command --help | less", if there's no less it's "command --help | more", but now were getting into old system compatability, and I don't think that counts. There are annoying exceptions like "mplayer" and "cdrecord" but we all bitch about them, and the good fight is being faught.

See, that IS the UI for a unix system. Everything else is just fluff. When you say UI you mean what microsoft and apple call a UI, that is a GUI. Seriously though, how much serious unix work gets done via a GUI? The real applications that unix is designed for are vi, emacs, sh, awk, perl, gcc, and the whole gnu toolchain. The GUI is just for multiplexing terminals. It's not standard because it doesn't need to be standard. The main reason I use Linux is that the GUI ISN't standard, so I can customize it to my hearts content. At the core though the system is always the same, so I can still use a random console that I walk up to. The problem is that the standardization isn't at the level of abstraction that normal users want, but that's because the entire UI isn't at the level of abstraction that normal users want. I'm not saying that the system is "GOOD" in any global sense, or user friendly either, but as soon as you realize what the killer apps in unix really are it's quite clear that the main applications (sh, and the toolchain) are very consistant. Claiming the interface sucks is debatable and probably true, but claiming that it isn't consistant is just bullshit.

Sound effects? (1)

Bluesman (104513) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358060)

I find it amazing that the computer experts in TV and film never turn off the high pitched sound effects that play whenever a window opens, moves, a key is pressed, or a photo is "enhanced."

That would drive me crazy.

Re:Sound effects? (2, Funny)

jpardey (569633) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358100)

Actually, every computer professional has a midi footpad under every computer desk, so they can control beeping noises. Sort of like whenever I slide a lighting slider I say "woooosh" or "wht" depending on how fast I slide it.

Re:Sound effects? (4, Interesting)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358124)

On the other hand, most of the people watching those experts in TV and film aren't experts and haven't the slightest idea how a real expert would behave. The idea in a movie is to make the action appear realistic to the majority of the audience. Whether it is actually realistic is secondary. Yes, that will alienate some small percentage of the said audience who have the experience to perceive the error, but from a cinematic perspective that's a small price to pay. Hey, this is Slashdot and most of us are computer-literate far beyond the norm, but you can bet your boots that there are many people from other disciplines that just want to rip their eyes out when they watch scenes that would just make us think, "Whoa ... cool."

By way of example, in the original pilot of Star Trek (original series) the test audience felt the opening sequence felt unnatural, because when the Enterprise was zooming into view there was no sound. That was as it should have been, this being a starship traveling through vacuum parsecs from anything resembling an atmosphere. However, as soon as Roddenbery's people added the swoosh! sound effect, everybody was happy. I've seen both sequences and I must admit I prefer it with the sound, even though I know better.

Re:Sound effects? (1)

Bluesman (104513) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358388)

The problem is, if you are not completely ignorant of any of these topics:

Firearms
Physics
Chemistry
The Military
Women
Children
Men
Automobiles
Computers

Then it's nearly impossible to watch a TV show or movie and not be constantly rolling your eyes. It's really hard to suspend disbelief when Jennifer Garner's semi-auto PISTOL runs out of ammo and then CLICKS when she pulls the trigger. The goddamn slide locks back, Hollywood assholes! Clicking only happens with revolvers!

Thank you, I feel much better.

Re:Sound effects? (1)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358414)

Clicking only happens with revolvers!

Hey, the fact that you even know that there's a difference between a pistol and a revolver puts you in a tiny little minority, even here.

Re:Sound effects? (3, Funny)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358510)

Well, at least I'm ignorant of the "women" part (according to my wife). Maybe I should watch more of those movies.

Access Denied (1)

Dupple (1016592) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358106)

The biggest gaff of all has to be in Independance Day, bringing down the alien Mother Ship with a virus uploaded from a Powerbook. I don't remember the UI but it wasn't a flavour of Mac OS. The best use of 'Access Denied' was in Lawnmower Man

What about enhance? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17358108)

I can't believe they left out the enhance functionality, making a someones face from twenty feet away appear crystal clear on a 320x240 ATM camera.

Twas the night before xmas... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17358128)

Twas the night before Christmas,
As I clicked on my mouse,
Across a pile of old floppies, I had tried to degauss;
Windows kept hanging with a Blue Screen Of Death,
While I cursed out Bill Gates under my breath.
The missus slept, as did the kids and newborn,
So I took the time to surf for some porn.
I found a free site that contained many jpegs,
(So that's just exactly, how chickens can lay eggs!)
When out down the hall I heard a loud noise,
I jumped out of my chair and put back the boys.

I figured the wife must be up and about,
If caught again, she'd toss my ass out.
I laced up my robe and thought of a story
About why I'm up and how to say sorry.
I stuck out my head by the light of the john
(One of the kids must've left the light on)
I squint and I strain to see what is what
When what hove into view was a giant red butt.
The first thing I thought was to reach for a bat
(Wait a minute. A red suit, fur trim and he's fat!)

The Claus man is here with high-tech type gadgets
The latest geek toys that run all the gamuts.
New cell phones! New sound cards! New controllers and games!
For Xbox! For Gamecube! For Playstation and MAMEs!
Wireless Routers! And they're eleven G!
Not slow! Not slow! Not slow like B!
As dial-up was, before we all had high speed,
Time seemed to slow as I watched with my greed.
" All those wonderful toys" as the joker did say,
Where does he get them? Best Buy and Ebay?

And then, with a beeping, off went my pager,
(Some idiot at work with a dumb question, I'll wager)
As I fumbled to stop the beep-beeping sound,
Santa had stopped and now turned around.
It was unfortunate that he tripped the motion detector
Because the police would soon be dispatched to our sector
He dropped the toys to make quick his escape
And he flew 'cross the room like that dude in the cape

His ass -- How it rippled and flapped, I say truly
It's explained in a principle by a guy named Bernoulli.
Yes, he flew 'round the room just like he was Neo
While playing a song by Letters To Cleo
I silenced the alarm and he returned to the floor
I said I was sorry, but boy, was he sore!
He hitched up his belt and headed my way
But I managed to calm him with some Grand Marnier.
We laughed, we talked and he told me his troubles
About a lawsuit, an affair and a chimp named Bubbles.

He was falling down drunk. He walked with a sway.
I thought I had better take the keys to the sleigh.
I pulled out my cell phone and called for a cab
To take the jolly old elf back to his lab.
He spoke not a word, but threw up on my slippers.
By the smell, for breakfast, he must've had kippers.
That's about the time the policemen arrived,
So I went for some coffee to get old Santa revived.
In his current state and with no ID to display,
The cops had no choice, but to haul him away.

He gave me the finger as the cops drove out of sight,
" HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO ALL, AND TO ALL A GOOD-NIGHT.

Access Granted? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17358134)

Cause I could swear my VPN client gives me an access granted message when I enter my password successfully...

Whoever wrote this article needs to get off their high horse.

Merry Christmas!

Too hard to keep your hands in the air? (4, Interesting)

MarcoAtWork (28889) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358144)

My teachers (from grade school to college) had no problems gesturing and writing on whiteboards all day, also something tells me that painters, form carpenters, etc. etc. (especially in days gone by, without power nailers and spray guns) can keep their hands up in the air all day long no problem.

Re:Too hard to keep your hands in the air? (2, Informative)

fucksl4shd0t (630000) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358426)

Errr, no. Teachers are exhausted after a full day's teaching for a reason. I used to work in the pit at an oil change place and I can tell you, keeping your hands up in the air ain't no picnic. In fact, after awhile on a busy day, you just want to go up top so you can let your arms hang slack.

Guestures will never work! (1)

@madeus (24818) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358152)

Guestures will never take off as a means of user input. It will be a cold day in hell before Wii see that sort of interface on a home computing system.

More seriously, what is so difficult to imagine a system in the future (ala MR) that can react to slight, minor movements (something the Wii allows for with it's remote - technically you need need to make over the top movements to use it, but that's fun to do). You needen't keep your hands in the air right out in front of you, though subtle and lazy movements might have looked odd on screen.

Not that I think the UI in MR was very good from a practicle point of view - surely a PITA to use (would rather have a decent form interface, tabbed UI and maybe spider charts for searching through data as seen in MR).

This interface from the BBC series 'Torchwood' [torchwood.org.uk] (a Doctor Who spinnoff) is similar, and quite cool though - based on the interface used in the series itself and has some good bonus / background material for fans of the show. As with Minority Report, the LCD screens in Torchwood can only display varing shades of the colour blue for some reason (even when playing back FMV).

Thankfully it also has a more practical and boring HTML version (the BBC seem to understand the importance of accessibility).

It never stops (1)

Paranoia Agent (887026) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358162)

" it's very tiring to keep your arms in the air" I happen to like my Wii, you insensitive bastard.

It never stops-swinging. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17358380)

You never know. Someone just may use the Wii controllor as an alternative computer input device. Me, I think these articles simply show that a lot of people have little imagination. WIMP is so entrenched, any alternative will have to look and behaive like it. Thereby stagnating any UI development for decades. The movies just may be the only place free to experiment despite the ridicule.

This is science fiction... (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358180)

...the characters operate a complex information space by gesturing wildly in the space in front of their screens.

Either people in the future will be more physically fit than people today to handle these systems or a future user interface designer spent too much time playing the Nintendo Wii as a child.

Voice interfaces inefficient? (5, Funny)

MysticOne (142751) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358182)

I'd have to disagree with the article when they say the voice interfaces, such as those used in Star Trek, would be inefficient. If the machine is able to understand natural language, I'd think it would be much easier for a person to simply have a dialog with the computer than it'd be to try and figure out how to properly word the stuff, type it in, and then pick things from the screen. Not to mention the fact that the machine would literally need hundreds of thousands or millions of options, depending on what the user wanted. If you already know what you want, why not just say it?

Voice:
"Computer, what's the status of the plasma conduit in section XYZ?"

Alternative:
Okay, Engineering -> Systems -> Energy -> Plasma Conduits -> Section XYZ -> Status

Voice:
"Computer, how many crew members on board are human, female, and single? Oh, and with big boobs?"

Alternative:
Hmmm, Personnel -> Crew Listing -> Filter based on species, gender, marital status -> ... wtf? no big boobs option?!

Anyway. I just thought it seemed silly. A lot of times it's easier to say what you want than it is to write it out. If the computer can understand written english that isn't specially formatted, then why not take it to the next step and have it accept voice input? After all that is said, they did still have LCARS and all, so it isn't like voice interaction was the only way to work with the computer.

Re:Voice interfaces inefficient? (1)

EvanED (569694) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358330)

After all that is said, they did still have LCARS and all, so it isn't like voice interaction was the only way to work with the computer.

Indeed. According to the Star Trek: Next Generation Technical Manual (p. 33), "keyboard input is preferred in most situations for greater operating speed and reduced chance of input error by voice discriminator algorithms." So it looks like Starfleet thinks that the voice input feature is not ideal. Though, I think for your queries above, it probably would be faster, especially if you had to search for options.

Voices maybe, but not plain english (1)

Weaselmancer (533834) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358386)

I think a voice interface would still be a problem. It's the content of the spoken message that is important.

I can type "Show me the status of the plasma conduit in section XYZ", and I can also speak it aloud. Once it gets past speech recognition, it winds up essentially a list of tokens. English language words. Unless your speech recognition is so good it can glean different information from inflection.

Really, what I think is best would be the ability for a computer to truly parse a spoken language.

The reason why I think a voice interface wouldn't be as good - imagine what an office would be like if everyone was chattering at their computer all the time. And the side effects of that.

"Computer, show me the latest articles at Slashdot."

What if the boss is walking by? And even if you're doing what you're supposed to be doing, who wants to have to listen to it all day?

I'd take an english parser and a keyboard over that, myself.

Re:Voices maybe, but not plain english (1)

MysticOne (142751) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358406)

I think a voice interface would still be a problem. It's the content of the spoken message that is important.

I can type "Show me the status of the plasma conduit in section XYZ", and I can also speak it aloud. Once it gets past speech recognition, it winds up essentially a list of tokens. English language words. Unless your speech recognition is so good it can glean different information from inflection.


I'm thinking if your computer is good enough to parse natural english when typed, it can probably just as easily handle the spoken words (provided it can understand what the words are). I'd rather speak than type if I can speak naturally.

The reason why I think a voice interface wouldn't be as good - imagine what an office would be like if everyone was chattering at their computer all the time. And the side effects of that.

Well, I didn't say it'd be necessarily practical for every situation. I'm just saying I don't think it'd be particularly inefficient. :) It depends on how you needed to use the computer.

Re:Voice interfaces inefficient? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17358462)

Efficiency isn't the problem with a voice interface, noise is the problem. Imagine sitting in a sea of cubicles where everyone is talking to their computers. Where's my Cone of Silence when I need it?

On the other hand, imagine the fun you could have with the paging system, "Format C:".

Re:Voice interfaces inefficient? (1)

MysticOne (142751) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358484)

As i said to the other poster in the thread, noise was not mentioned in the article. It was said the system was inefficient because it was more cumbersome to talk than it would be to type. That's where I disagreed. Whether or not noise matters is a different issue, but, I don't think it would've been a problem for the Star Trek computer.

Re:Voice interfaces inefficient? (2, Interesting)

aridhol (112307) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358492)

wtf? no big boobs option?!

Just cross-reference your results with the uniform size database. One more reason for custom-tailored uniforms.

Another list article... great... (2, Insightful)

geekmansworld (950281) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358194)

Who writes these things? And why do they get posted on Slashdot endlessly?

First off, I found the 3D interface from Minority Report to be fascinating; and given the unique function of the computer who is to say that it wasn't the most efficient manner of manipulating the data? Second, I noticed that in Star Trek characters generally used keypads/control panels for complex tasks, while others could be dictated more speedily and/or helped the character focus his or her thoughts. This seemed perfectly justifiable to me.

And yes, for the UMPTEENTH time, the UNIX GUI from Jurassic Park was silly. You are not the first person to have noticed this. But the fact is that having much of that incredibly tense scene plunked out on a keyboard in a monochrome command line would have put most audiences to sleep.

Is it necessary to hack apart some of our favorite geek fiction without the slightest suspension of disbelief so that some of us can feel hoity-toity about their computer savvy? Please...

No "Independence Day" references? (4, Funny)

greenguy (162630) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358210)

Even on Christmas Eve, I figured someone would have mentioned this by now.

Jeff Goldblum['s character] is able to plant a virus in the computer designed by AN ALIEN SPECIES. This assumes he has a good working knowledge of not only their user interface, but their hardware, software APIs, programming language, and arguably their natural language as well. Oh, and he learned all this in, like, a day. Granted, he had a Mac, but still.

What about "Independance Day" (2)

big4ared (1029122) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358212)

I can't believe he the article doesn't mention "Independance Day" where Jeff Goldbloom takes a virus on his mac, and uploads it to the alien mothership, which takes down the shields of all the little fighters.

I also liked how the aliens used earth's satelites to send a signal to co-ordinate the time that they would strike. Naturally, an alien race which has mastered faster-than-light travel and can take over our complex satelite system still hasn't figured out how to synchronize its watches.

Re:What about "Independance Day" (1)

Sivart832z (867595) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358436)

On the contrary! They have figured out a way to sync watches... using our satellites! :)

Re:What about "Independance Day" (1)

Dupple (1016592) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358520)

I did mention Independance Day. What a surprise, another slashdotter who can't be bothered to read the whole thread. Is it any wonder I hardly ever post?

Amusing. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17358218)

The claim that it's unrealistic for time travlers from the future to not know about systems of today is rather amusing.
In part because it'd require knowledge of the future to know that... but mostly because it completly ignores the fact that they just traveled through time.

this is why so many computer users are overweight (1)

David_Shultz (750615) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358220)

...the system in Minority Report is considered one of the worst UIs in movie history because moving your arms is "very tiring". Maybe having to move your arms is a good thing. Maybe you should have to run on the spot to scroll.

There was an episode of Outer Limits (I think it was Outer Limits) where a race had become so dependent on their technology that their bodies had withered to non-functionality. It was an interesting forecast for ourselves, but it is more likely we will be disabled by obesity rather than withering.

Obviously I'm not actually suggesting something like this will occur, but my God people -is it really that hard to move your arms?

Best movie usability scene ever. (4, Insightful)

greenguy (162630) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358246)

"Luke, you've switched off your targeting computer. What's wrong?"

Re: Don't give George Lucas any more ideas!!! (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17358294)

Great, now that you've brought that up, the next remaster of Episode IV will have the computer saying...

"It looks like you're trying to target a two-meter exhaust port with proton torpedoes.
Would you like some help with that?"

User Interface? Minority Report. (5, Insightful)

noretsa (995866) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358258)

Does anyone else question why we are taking user interface advice from a guy whose website looks like it was designed in notepad? The Minority Report user interface was actually designed by industry professionals at Microsoft Research, MIT, and Sun. These people all have a great pedigree in usability. The author suggests using a 3D interface is tiring but in the movie the police are required to parse through a large amount of 4-dimensional data in very short periods of time. This is because they need to stop the crime before it occurs. That interface is built around speed and control which is not something the critic considers. I find it ironic how the author derides gestural input while Slashdot has stories almost every day about how great that interface has worked for the Wii.

Re:User Interface? Minority Report. (1)

Wilson_6500 (896824) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358364)

This website was refreshingly easy to read, honestly. Nicely contrasted text in a reasonably large font.

Re:User Interface? Minority Report. (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358444)

I would have a problem with waving around my arm full time on the job. I suppose that would make it a good excuse to avoid work at home.

Re:User Interface? Minority Report. (2, Insightful)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358446)

The author suggests using a 3D interface is tiring but in the movie the police are required to parse through a large amount of 4-dimensional data in very short periods of time.

Most people describe the UI of the air traffic control system I work on as dull but thats because you need to give it your total attention for six hours straight without your eyes getting tired.

Different requirements from your example, with the totally opposite outcome, but the argument that the UI has to suit the application is a good one.

Re:User Interface? Minority Report. (1)

jedo (470842) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358468)

Does anyone else question why we are taking user interface advice from a guy whose website looks like it was designed in notepad?

You're right. He should've used vi.

Re:User Interface? Minority Report. (1)

swiftstream (782211) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358486)

Does anyone else question why we are taking user interface advice from a guy whose website looks like it was designed in notepad?


No. Do you find it hard to read, or something?

Your UID is even higher than mine, which betrays that you're new here. This is Jakob Nielsen [useit.com] we're talking about. He's not just some random dude with a website written in Notepad. He's a well-known UI expert with a (simple and) easy to read website which looks like it could very well have been written in Notepad. There's a big difference. He may not always be right, but he does have significant credentials.

Re:User Interface? Minority Report. (2, Interesting)

fermion (181285) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358514)

I will tell you what. Most websites are quite overengineered as a result of the compromise between usability and revenue generation. This is pretty much true of anything, but it is important to consider. In fact when evaluating an interface, the first thing that must be asked is what is the actual purpose of the interface.

Let's take the ATM machine for example. Initially the machine was created to reduce the load on tellers for easily automated tasks. These machines would often directly generate revenue by charging customers for the transactions. Therefore, these machines pretty quickly had well designed interfaces that allowed relatively rapid transactions. The rapid transactions were important because the higher the rate of transactions, the more money. As time went by, however, the charges for most transactions were eliminated, the marketing people realized that a person at an ATM machine was a captive audience, so the primary purpose of an ATM became to advertise services. The result is that the current generation of ATM have horrible interfaces in terms of customer usability and rapid transactions, which really puts the customer at a unnecessary risk, but wonderful a wonderful interface in terms of forces customers to view advertising. In terms of the purpose, aside from the fact that the customer is endangered, there is nothing wrong with the interface

Likewise, a web page has to be judged to it's purpose. If one is a newspaper, then one is going to want to present news, but equally important generate revenue to support the page. Therefore the page must be complicated not only to organize the news, but to display pictures, and to display enoug ad content to pay for the page. Much of the complexity of any commercial page in fact comes from the need to integrate ads and content.

So, if ads are not critical, and the content is straightforward, how complex does a page have to be, and is complexity itself a goal? I fear many believe that complexity is a virtue. On one intranet page I work with, at least a third of the real estate is wasted on branding and other non content. Often less that half the area is available for the content one is interested in. Nothing is linked properly. All the energy and money is spent on useless branding and cool design.

Now, look at useit.com again. The site itself is an ad, so needs no additional ads. The branding is clear, and avoids banner blindness by using text for the titles. Each section is clearly marked, and the one picture clearly promotes Nielsen. There are no other extraneous pictures to distract from this promotion. Since Nielsen offers tips on how to attract and keep customers through the user interface, and not the technical details on how to develop the interface, there is not benefit to whiz bang programming.

So here is the deal. The parent post is right and wrong. It is wrong to criticize the useit webpage, falling into the oft citing fallacy that a more complex web page is more usable. This fallacy will likely be the cause of the failure of many new web pages, and is already the cause of waste of million, if not billions, in public funds. However, the parent is correct that the minority report interface is not significantly defective, but not for the reasons cited. As a computer interface, it is probably lacking. However, the interface is not meant to be a communication protocol. Rather, it is a dramatic tool. Therefore, if Nielsen is judging is as a computer interface, then this is another example where Nielsen has completely missed the point. The only reasonable measure of success or failure can be if the interface communicated the intentions and results to the audience. And, as much as we hate the big login screen, it is what the audience needs.

Beeps (1)

massysett (910130) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358266)

He forgot how movie computers are always beeping and emitting other odd sounds at useless moments.

Re:Beeps (1)

fucksl4shd0t (630000) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358464)

Forgot? Maybe he didn't comment on it as the most realistic ui portrayal? I use my computer as my alarm clock, which means at least once a day my wife goes to some website that makes a noise in speakers and a mxier that are cranked. It's always funny, too. :)

A *BSD Carol (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17358320)

"Spirit," said Scrooge, with an interest he had never felt before, "tell me if *BSD will live."

"I see a vacant seat," replied the Ghost, "in the poor chimney-corner, and a crutch without an owner, carefully preserved. If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, *BSD will die."

"No, no," said Scrooge. "Oh, no, kind Spirit! say it will be spared."

"If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, none other of my race," returned the Ghost, "will find him here. What then? If it be like to die, it had better do it, and decrease the surplus operating system population."

Scrooge hung his head to hear his own words quoted by the Spirit, and was overcome with penitence and grief. It was sad to see any operating system die, even one so obviously flawed and useless as *BSD.

God bless us, every one.

gesturing for hours is ok... (1)

majid_aldo (812530) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358408)

Gestures do have their place, but not as the primary user interface for office systems.'"

yawn...ok someone just mod me funny. you know the joke.

From TFA... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17358410)

"In contrast, it's highly unlikely that anyone from 2207 would have ever seen Windows Vista screens."

Well with the current rate of MS software development, Vista will likely still be in use in 2207....
now Vista SP2, that might be something that someone in 2207 might not have seen (well, maybe in beta version...)

Wowzee wow wow (1)

regular_gonzalez (926606) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358432)

So what are you saying -- movies are different from real life? Now it all makes sense; I was wondering why Wolverine and James Bond hadn't teamed up to destroy those giant asteroids hurtling towards Earth.

Disclosure (Movie) and 3d (1)

chasisaac (893152) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358452)

The movie Disclosure http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0109635/ [imdb.com] had the single most worst stupid 3d interface.

In the movie they had to walk through a virtual database while walking. Then try to find something that was filed in virtual drawers, then bring the virtual file to a place to print the stupid file.

Let me see . . . activate Spotlight (okay I am using a Mac) type in few words and bing my file pops up, double click and I am gone. Total time 5 seconds.

The movie Disclosure . . .
Put on virtual gear (10 minutes)
Step on the pad and start walking
Search around a database while walking(hours)
FInd the file (10 minutes)
Send the virtual file to the screen or printer (10 seconds)
Get the virtual gear off (10 Minutes)
Fill out a form explaining why you broke the %#(#)&%%^&#@)@*% goggles. (2 hours)
Explain to boss why you broke the ^%^*(@#*)#@&%@(* goggles (4-5 hours)
Go to make a change in the file (2 minutes)

For the lazy... [Article Summary] (1)

Shadyman (939863) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358472)

Top 10 Usability Bloopers in the Movies:

1. The Hero Can Immediately Use Any UI: All movie stars know how to use alien UIs
2. Time Travelers Can Use Current Designs: Someone from 500 years from now being able to use DOS? Someone from 500 years ago using Windows?
3. The 3D [Gesture-based] UI: "3D is for demos. 2D is for work."
4. Integration is Easy, Data Interoperates: "Microsoft Works"
5. Access Denied / Access Granted: Why tell them "Access Granted" in equally the same font/color/size as DENIED?
6. Big Fonts: HUGE Fonts = Unrealistic UI + Eyestrain
7. Star Trek's Talking Computer: Harder to specify in words vs. a 3D interface
8. Remote Manipulators (Waldo Controls): Car remote control via a cell phone: high speed control, and accurate? BS
9. You've Got Mail is Always Good News: Never any spam in the movies
10. "This is Unix, It's Easy": Case in point: The kid in Jurassic Park haxing teh Unix. 'nuff said.

From http://www.useit.com/alertbox/film-ui-bloopers.htm l [useit.com]

Almost credible... until right at the end. (2, Insightful)

PhreakOfTime (588141) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358512)

Ok. It was kind of hard reading yet another person who does not understand that movies are NOT reality. But at times it was mildly amusing, and almost credible. I say almost, because right at the end of the article there is a one line sentence that made me realize the author of this piece has ZERO comprehension of the real world. Most likely because the author is too busy trying to force reality on an obviously non-reality based for of entertainment. The line was this;

Users blame themselves when they can't use technology

Im sorry, but having worked in IT for almost a decade now, I have yet to hear one person who blames themselves instead of the 'stupid computer'. Hell, in this society, we even call car wrecks 'accidents' because nobody has the stones to take responsibility. Yet, this guy somehow believes that people are blaming themselves that they dont know how to use a PC? The only thing I can even think comes close to this is the people who walk around using the phrase "Im computer illiterate" as some sort of badge of honor. To which I always think "If you cant take the time to educate yourself about something you know you should be trying to learn, do you think its a great idea to BRAG about it?"

That one line in the article is more fanciful than ANY of the movie situations presented.

Oblig. Matrix (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 7 years ago | (#17358540)

Gestures do have their place, but not as the primary user interface for office systems.

Neo: How about I give you the finger.... and you give me my phone call?

It is at this point that Agent Smith blocks Neo's VoIP ports, and... well, you know the rest.
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