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Scientist that dreamed up fake Minority Report interfaces now makes real ones

The movie Minority Report and Iron Man had incredible futuristic computers, and we all wanted them, and now they’re becoming real. For real!


Science fiction becomes science reality

With each passing technological innovation, reality becomes closer and closer to science fiction.

According to computer wizard and National Design Award winner John Underkoffler, who designed the fantastical user interfaces shown in the movies Minority Repot and Iron Man, there is an increasingly “tight feedback loop” between the imaginative minds of the film industry and the tech geeks who are bringing futuristic fictions to life.

Minority Report interface could soon be real

Underkoffler was already working on some pretty high tech projects at MIT when he was recruited by Hollywood to create user interfaces for scenes in Minority Report. His assignment: to show “what a computer would look like in fifty years.” He designed user interfaces where “character could stand in the middle of a huge panorama of visual information and conduct it with their hands.”

oblong industries

Now, in far less than fifty years, Underkoffler and his company, Oblong Industries, are building real life prototypes of the kind of “spatial computation” that dazzled audiences in Minority Report. Their program, Mezzanine, brings the “computer out of the computer” to create a “democratic pixel workspace” – a multiscreen computer environment where the project team and their devices are all interconnected, and where “you can point to a screen and make something happen.”

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A new reality being born

It may seem obvious that science fiction and real technology would influence one another, but this wasn’t always the case. Only recently have technological innovations advanced quickly enough to keep up with the imagined gadgets and gizmos invented by the creative minds in film, literature, and comics.

oblong industries

Nowadays, it’s increasingly common for film producers to consult with tech geniuses like Underkoffler for inspiration, and for scientists to take inspiration from sci-fi. According to Underkoffler, “movies now know that it’s worthwhile and valuable to go into the industry and get technology experts to kind of help them shape what they’re showing in films.” He says the converse is also true – increasingly designers and engineers take technology “shown fictionally and bring it into the real world.”

What fictional technologies would you like to see brought to life?


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Ellen Vessels, a Staff Writer at The American Genius, is respected for their wide range of work, with a focus on generational marketing and business trends. Ellen is also a performance artist when not writing, and has a passion for sustainability, social justice, and the arts.

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