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After having watched the Star Trek movie in the Sydney IMAX theatre (and almost getting a neck strain desperately looking for the miniscule USS Enterprise in some of ultra-wide shots), one has to admire the incredibly designed information panels on the bridge. I was not surprised to learn that the company behind its execution, OOOiii [ooo-ii.com], was also responsible for the gesture-like interfaces in Minority Report and The Island.

On a technical level, the live visual effects office OOOii created a complete Flash / ActionScript 3 framework for compositing and sequencing various effects that was used live on the set during filming. An AIR application was used for authoring the various sequences and also to control them as the actors manipulated them. The resulting architecture thatutilized many computers, dynamic content rendering, and broadcasted meta data, to create what appears to be a contiguous world into which all of the screens act as windows. It also means that the man who converted his studio flat into a replica Star Trek spaceship probably saw this coming when he sold his apartment last year.

Still interested? You can explore a 360 degrees rendering of the bridge on the OOOii website, admire the original concept art from James Clyne, or watch an interesting interview with the creators.

See also Simultaneous Star Trek Voyager Singularity Video




I imagine that a 23rd-century starship wouldn't rely on physical display/control devices, rather that there'd be holographic displays, non-touch controls, and perhaps thought-controlled interfaces. Oh, and there'd be a much greater extent of computer control. Think 2001, released in 1968.

Sat 06 Jun 2009 at 12:22 AM

Maybe somewhere in the 22th century they found out such interfaces were not fit for operating starships. I'd think Sojoez.

Besides that, HAL didn't really live up the expectations :-)

Sat 06 Jun 2009 at 2:29 AM
Tim van Oostrom

Hey, shouldn't the screen that Uhura is looking at be in reverse, so it's readable from her side of the glass?

Sat 06 Jun 2009 at 5:21 AM

Hmm, that's interesting. These guys are claiming credit for Minority Report too: http://www.oblong.com/

Sat 06 Jun 2009 at 7:14 AM

Haven't seen the film yet, but I'm willing to bet that the Uhura image above is flipped and appears correctly in the film.

Mon 08 Jun 2009 at 7:26 PM

Seeing these screens in Minority report, James Bond QoS now star trek. Originality seems to be lacking as this technology is possible now. Why would we be stuck for interface ideas that far in the future?

Tue 09 Jun 2009 at 2:02 AM

@Dave. I have the impression all the shots are really movie stills, though.

@Boobs. What alternative interface ideas would you propose then?

Tue 09 Jun 2009 at 1:25 PM

There's an interview with OOOii over on http://theflashblog.com/?p=1023 that goes into their process a little more.

@Danny: the difference between OOOii and Oblong is that OOOii worked on the minority report visuals in post, while Oblong is actually creating an interactive platform.

Fri 19 Jun 2009 at 7:34 AM

Surely they would have voice command or emotion command interface. I know what they have done looks good for the screen. Used proper VR before and nothing beats the thrill of total immersion. As for the future I think more holographic displays.

Sat 27 Jun 2009 at 3:03 AM

Nobody ever seems to realize that these gigantic holographic displays floating in the air without a dark background are actually rather difficult to read. More so with people running around and stuff going on behind it... It looks cool on film, but very irritating in reality. That's my guess. Even a HUD (Head Up Display) in a car only works well when it shows limited info.

Fri 10 Jul 2009 at 7:28 AM
joris mertens

Keeping in mind that we're talking about a 200-year difference in technology (compare today with 1809, for example) the tech and display graphics are ludicrously old-fashioned in Star Trek. In the Matrix, which took place in what they considered a low-tech, rudimentary future environment, they were able to jack the computer directly into someone's head, and in Star Trek we're still using multi-touch? And they have to run to another room to use the other touch panel to save someone's life? Seriously?

Holographic displays would be too limited as well. If you really wanted an interface based on what a computer-assisted brain could accomplish you would want something experienced internally by all observers (as if it was part of their own sensory experience), rather than something projected to be seen through a medium.

Example: If tiny component could be included in or on your body to interact with your nervous system you could have info graphics appear within your actual vision (not on a screen, but as a part of what you see with your eyes) in 3D space, in real time, accessed by thought rather than by any interface (touch, voice, or otherwise). You could walk around seeing things and having the main computer provide data analysis as you look at and think about things. This would make each person's mind a super computer.

For a group of people, the central computer would merely cause them to see the same things, or perhaps even be observers of the captain's interpretations of the situation so they could use the computer to think in unison, as a "hive mind".

We currently have the ability to look through a clear panel and have the computer supply information about what we see through the panel. In the not-so-distant future we could probably have the same thing without any "device" at all.

Makes a touch panel seem kind of silly, no?

However, in Hollywood, showing a potentially accurate computer interface from 200 years in the future would be so different from today that the first half of the movie would have to be dedicated to explaining how it works, and people don't watch Star Trek for a tutorial on theoretical futurism. Well, most people don't at least. ;)

Fri 10 Jul 2009 at 8:34 PM
Joel Marsh

For movie makers, this stuff is all well and good, but you have to provide a present frame of reference so that the story doesn't get lost in the tech stuff.

Thu 09 Dec 2010 at 9:22 AM
Brophy Williams

Joel, You're describing the Borg it seems. Interesting.

Wed 30 Nov 2011 at 11:53 PM
James Kelley
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