Watching computer appearances in movies is always interesting.
It is fun to imagine if computer technology would really work in the way presented by Hollywood. Sometimes they manage to get computer scientists very puzzled though.
Click at the image on the side to read three plausible explanations to a question whose answer has eluded many for years (Courtesy Wolf Gnards).
When done right, however, movies with futuristic elements are a great opportunity to see new ideas and concepts from very skilled designers. Besides incredible motion graphics, most Sci-FI movies routinely present some kind of advanced display or interface. One recurrent ideia is the combination of holograms and 3d interaction with gestures. You can see it in several movies such as Tron, Iron Man and my favorite, District 9.
These sort of motion control interfaces are well fitted for movies, but what they mean to real world designs? Leap Motion has created a nice two part video and post inspired by an analysis written by Noessel for Smashing Magazine. The video points out that even though movies seldom portray the reality, they do create expectation on the users for:
These are nice guidelines but perhaps they are too general to help us with the specific goal of building better gestural interfaces. As a user you always want to be in control, not the opposite. It is also complex to require both immersion and flow. Not all applications provide immersion and flow is hardly a property of the interface alone.
In Noessel article, however, he observes that gesture in movies tend to fall into 7 different type of actions:
These actions are almost a 1:1 mapping to real world gestures. So they tend to feel more intuitive and even advanced (on the sense that they understand what you mean). This set some guidelines on what users may expect from those gestures.
The most interesting point by Noessels is really about the role of language in interfaces, but I will discuss it later.
If you are interested, NoteLoop has an interesting blog with a section dedicated to Movie UI.