Minority Report for the Majority

I can’t wait until we finally get the interface technology from Minority Report…so that we can stop talking about getting the interface technology from Minority Report. When that 2002 Steven Spielberg movie hit, we were all entranced by the way Tom Cruise interacted with the digital world in real-world space. Aside from just looking cool, there were two reasons for that.

First, it just seemed so right. I mean, why am I using a semi-orb of plastic and a plank of buttons to navigate a screen in a totally different plane or, these days, why am I just using the surfaces of my fingertips to interact with digital space behind glass?

Mostly, though, the reason the tech was so fascinating was because the men behind it were actual MIT scientists, led by John Underkoffler, who had been experimenting with the idea in a much more primitive way and used the movie money almost as an R&D budget to forward progress on the idea enough to give the movie (and the technology) more of a reality.

And now the tech has made a much bigger leap into reality. The company Oblong, of which Underkoffler is the chief scientist, has finally commercialized some of that technology to make video and data more easily sortable and analyzable in a natural way. You can read more about that here.

Also, here’s a link to a 2010 TEDtalk from Underkoffler, where he talks through the ideas and progress from the pre- and post-Minority Report days and even demos the system for the audience.

The most exciting thing about this is how much more accessible the power of computers can be to the everyday person. Touchscreens made it so that an 18-month-old can intuitively navigate a computer system without ever having seen one before, so just imagine what real-world interfaces could do for people who have spent their entire lives interacting with the real world.