As I was walking home the other day I got to thinking about the 2002 film Minority Report. Specifically, I was thinking about the computer that Tom Cruise’s character was using during his police investigation. Those of you that have seen the film will know what I’m talking about, for those of you that haven’t I will briefly describe it.
The computer is basically a “Windows” type operating system, but rather than being on a physical monitor each window is a holographic projection. Cruise’s character wears special gloves with which he reaches into the holographic projection and moves, with his hands, the “windows” which have various video feeds playing on them. The total “desktop” is about six feet wide, so he really has to stretch his arms out to interact with the operating system. The basic idea being that the user could just grab a window and drop it wherever he wanted it, much like the windows based operating systems of today. Other interactions with the OS could be made as well by various arm motions.
When first seeing this, it seems very cool, it seems like an awesome idea for the future of computers. That, however, is not the case. Think about it. A computer like that requires a hell of a lot more effort than rotating your wrist a few degrees and pressing your index finger down a few times. In fact, the computers of today are much better than the computers of the future as seen in that film. Mankind invented computers in order to be more lazy, in order to get less exercise, in order to think less. The truth is, the mouse, as it stands today, and it hasn’t really been improved for at least a decade, is near perfection. Do you know why? Because it’s pretty close to being the laziest device that we can use to interact with a computer. The next laziest thing is a computer we can control with our minds. Voice control, as seen is Star Trek, doesn’t cut it, that takes a lot more effort than the mouse.
Now, some of my readers might think that I’m complaining about nothing. Minority Report is fiction, so who cares what the computers in the film are like? Well, in response to that, a friend of mine recently sent me a video of some new technology in which a human being was interacting with a “Window” like operating system using their hands. They weren’t interacting with a hologram, they were interacting with a touch screen, but it operated in very much the same manner as the computer in Minority Report. Technology like that seen in science fiction may not be that far away.
The fact of the matter is, though, as cool as technology may seem, and as neat as it may be to look at, sometimes it is just that. A spectacle and a toy. It’s not practical, it’s not something you would want to use on a regular basis, and once you’ve shown it to your friends, you might end up going back to the things that really make life easier.