Sci-Fi Interface Workshop with Chis Noessel
Noessel says, “We know we enjoy [science fiction], culturally, individually, but you can actually take a look at it with a critical eye, and use that to think about the future, think about technology in the future, and consider if that’s the way we want it to be.”
One of their basic rules is: Use Science Fiction. It’s a tool, a foundation, a way to think about what’s possible, what’s not, and how it can be better.
He ran a workshop on Wednesday night with the Reaktor office in Helsinki. I was super grateful to have been invited along. We began the evening by watching Elysium (2013). We then broke up into small team and each team decided on which interface in the movie we wanted to work on. To keep it short and simple each team worked for about 20-30min before presenting our ideas to the larger group.
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1) Would be keep the technology in the movie era or improve it by bringing in current technology?
2) Are we going to keep the plot line the same or change it?
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My team decided to work with the currently technology and keep the plot line the same. There was however, one team that actually made the interface worse because they knew how the user would react to it which would in turn completely change the outcome of the movie! That right there is power. 😉 It was pretty awesome and everyone then discussed how one slight change to a UI element can really throw the user off balance.
My team worked on the medical machinery that healed the inhabitants of Elysium. It included a bar code system so in essence if you weren’t a citizen and didn’t have a bar code proving your citizenship…tough luck. One of the main differences in this world with medical care is that it completely eliminated all personal interaction. No doctors, only machines. And each family on Elysium has their own personal machine. With that being said, we noticed a bulk load of interface and usability issues in the first few introductions of this machine.
The first question we asked was, “Why the heck was there a horse in the background of this interface?!” (see picture below). We later discovered that “Cheval” was either the name of the company that made this machine or the brand of the machine itself. And “Cheval” is French for “horse.” So, there ya go. Dilemma solved. However, the size and placement of the horse could be vastly improved…
We came up with multiple user personas for why and how a person would use this machine, how a family unit might differ from an individual, the user flow when you interact with the machine and many more items.
We looked at improving the interface elements such as consistency across all screens, easy access to different individual profiles, error message hierarchy and color palette, among other things. We also reviewed the users interaction which the machine as a whole which was very inconsistent throughout the film. For example, in all scenes except one in the movie the machine scans the person’s right arm but there was one scene where it scanned their left arm. And the barcode was consistently put on the citizens right arm so maybe that was just a miss on the director’s part…who knows? Overall, we were able to solve the main issues we saw surfacing on a repeated basis. It was a great run through, and I learned a lot!
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Even in the short time we worked out these issues, we all gleamed a lot of information and practical applications that we could see being applied to our daily workflows and products. All in all, it was a fantastic evening exploring one of my favorite movie genres which a bunch of amazing designers. All the nerds unite.