Sci-fi Interfaces That Are Close To Future Reality

The new year is right around the corner. I have some great ideas for future articles on design and technology, but I don't want to be too techy in this holiday times. So this one is about Sci-fi movies. I'm kidding, actually. It's still about interfaces, but I decided to summarize and share my thoughts on interfaces we see in Sci-fi movies, and I believe that some of them will emerge soon or already appearing these days.

Assistive Interfaces

I'm gonna start with interfaces that make complex tasks easier, help to make decisions fast and automate our processes.

The car of director Fury from Avengers

It has everything on the windshield. I don't exactly know yet if this is 100% correct for the UI to interfere with the basic visibility of objects outside the car. Especially, at high speeds. However, I believe when we have displays integrated into windshields then the whole process of driving will be different and perhaps automated. So the only thing we'll be taking care of is decision making on a high level like go there, pick up someone, etc.

Now, compare it to the most technologically advanced car that most commonly used nowadays, at least as far as I know.

View inside from Tesla

You have several screens where you can see the information related to your ride, you can control things and even do things not related to car settings, like phone calls, and music, but you always need to switch your focus on different things. You need to watch for the traffic and everything on the road, switch to the screen behind the steering wheel, then switch to the screen with central controllers of the car that is on the right below. Which is distracting. It's way better to have everything in one place, but the question is how to make things do not interfere with each other.

Anyway, is it something that real and can be applicable soon? Well, see-through displays is emerging technology and you already can find prototypes on the Internet. There is a new trend that is taking the technology to new heights. Samsung and LG have announced transparent displays.

Samsung transparent display

So, I believe we'll have screens and interfaces similar to Quantum of Solace where the glass is being used for showing all the data that is necessary for a specific task.

M's office wall from Quantum of Solace

Having all this space is very convenient. You don't have to switch back and forth between the screens to see all the levels of data or even to start searching for something related. Moreover, you can see things at a more realistic scale and also connect the dots much quicker than having a portable screen that just can't show you all that info on a small screen.

Let's check another example with Cryo pod from Prometheus movie. I don't know if cryo technology is something that we'll be having soon, but I think it's a great idea to show a layer of information about a patient on a glass cap.

Cryo pod from Prometheus

Another area where I see it can be applied is AR. We already have some of the good examples of AR apps like the one from Ikea that helps to understand if an item fits well into a space you have before buying it.

IKEA Place app

Often people easily can buy a piece of furniture and then they have to return it because it doesn't fit. So the app improves IKEA's customer experience with this new technology.

Having an informational layer on top of your physical space can be useful for sure. Moreover, if you can interact with it and make some adjustments as a demo.

Moreover, AR glasses are coming to market as well. Here is an example product I stumbled upon about a month ago on Producthunt.

Spacious Workstations

There are 2 trends that I noticed lately. One is being minimalistic and mobile. Basically, do everything from your laptop and smartphone, use cloud solutions, etc. Another one is to set up whole rooms, offices in a way that it's highly functional.

Take a look at a couple of examples from Oblivion movie.

Workplace from Oblivion
Dashboard from Oblivion

It's minimalistic in some way, but of course, it's a fixed place where all the work can be done.

Take a look at a couple of examples of fixed workplaces I found on Instagram.

@travelcodingninja on Instragram

It explains that we are ready for using as much space as possible to have all that we need in front of us. And we have emerging technologies like see-through screens and larger screen panels with huge resolutions. So I think that the current trend of designing for portable screens will be mixed with UIs for large workspaces and labs and probably that will be a different workflow for designers to do interfaces for those purposes. Because it's more about design systems and modularity.

We'd probably have some kind of big tables with AR projection to understand better what we do and see things from the different point of view similar to this screenshot from Avatar movie.

Laboratory from Avatar

Along with the projection of objects, it makes sense to have an informational layer and controls to change these layers, to make a configuration of the view so to speak.

Dark And Transparent Interfaces

It's not that easy to design a dark interface if you go into technical details and real use cases. I think it's even harder to do so for transparent screens.

Basement lab of Tony Stark from Iron Man

You can find studies and feedback of people who prefer dark interfaces for their work, and it makes perfect sense.

Dark text on light background is more often used for better readability and focus during the day. Also, this experience was transferred from print materials decades ago. However, the more time we spend concentrating on reading or writing in front of a screen, the more straining it becomes for our eyes. That's why lots of programmers switch to light text on a dark background.

Atom code editor, Moonlight theme

Design software also has a dark interface in 50% of times. It's different from code editors. Because we design different things and most of the time it's for our present needs. So we create lots of light stuff.

InVision Studio

I believe soon we'll have dark and transparent interfaces most of the time. So we'll be switching more into dark editors.

Dark interface from Passengers

The ideal case is when we can have both: light, and dark modes. Like Apple did with Mojave OS. It's not perfect yet, but it's a massive step into the growing trend.

We have to take into consideration, the users environment when an app is used. Often users tend to use some of the apps later in the day or in a room with dimmed lights. It's physically hard to adjust their vision between a bright screen and a darker environment. It leads to strained eyes.

Also, it might be more energy efficient to use dark UI with OLED screens that we already experience with the latest smartphones and smartwatches.

Voice interfaces

Last but not least is voice interfaces.

Apple HomePod with Siri

We have several popular examples of voice interfaces nowadays such as Siri, Google Assistant, and Alexa. But that's more oriented on the consumer's segment of users. I believe this is something that will be improving and we'll be able to make commands and quickly get what we want without interacting with visual interfaces and being distant from screens.

Also, we'll see a great combination of voice interfaces with visual UI that will serve as an additional layer to consume and understand information more quickly and efficiently.

There is still a lot to say and research on this topic of future design trends and concepts, but I'd rather make it as an opened topic. Things change so fast, so you never know what's gonna be trendy in the next month.

On that note I want you to be inspired and experiment with these concepts in free time. This is something that I'll be doing more in the next year. Oh, by the way... Happy holidays!

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Max Snitser

Max is a digital product designer and indie maker. He helps some of the best companies in the world to build products used by Millions. He is a creator of the SPRY Blogging Platform, Nightfall Design System, and the Design Patterns Library. Besides his technical background, he is a writer of the book about Independent design business. Also, created this blog as a domain for the most thorough and data-driven content on topics: Design, Remote Work, Blogging, and Technologies.