Monday, August 30, 2010

RCI: Robot-Computer Interaction

I happened to watch Terminator Salvation the other day.  It wasn't bad, at least not as bad as I'd thought it'd be.  A good action film.  But it does bring up a point which I tend to find extremely annoying in movies dealing with "futuristic" technology.

Side-note: A SanDisk Cruzer holds the key to defeating the machines?   I knew I had a reason to like SanDisk.

Human-Computer Interaction is a great field.  Understanding how people interact with computer interfaces and designing interfaces to take advantage of natural understanding is the wave of the future.  Nothing's worse than a machine with low usability due to non-intuitive controls or just plain tedium.  And it's blatant that Ubiquitous Computing plays a large role in this, with everything being made more powerful and interconnected.

But that's for humans.  Yes, those meat popsicles, some of whom have problems talking and walking at the same time (much less playing with their phones and walking at the same time).  However, when you have a robot (or part-robot, as it were), why take the time to create a visual display with an interface made for humans, then create an image of someone he used to know in order to speak to him.  He's got the capability for quick wireless communication as shown when he "accesses" the information on his death and Judgment Day.  Hell, even if he had to "plug-in" ala R2D2 or a USB, that's not that much harder to do.  Just creating the giant viewscreen was not worth it.  Really, who's it for?

While we're on this, why do the Terminators only have "eyes" on the front of their skulls?  Isn't this the time to improve on the human?  If it's really a killing machine why can't it see all around itself?  That seems like quite a limitation.

Another movie which fails at this is WALL-E. While an outstanding movie, the idea of AUTO (the autopilot) controlling the ship with the same controls the Captain uses is just insane.  He's an autopilot, he shouldn't have to even move.  It's like Otto from Airplane, only it's a robot mashing buttons to control things.  I don't let it bother me as much though because it's a great, light-hearted movie.

But maybe I'm wrong.  Maybe robot's will have the same problems interacting with computers that we have today.  If SkyNet does try and kill us all, it's incompatibility with Windows might save us all.  (Of course, if it's Windows based, then Linux can save the day.  But nothing that complex could ever survive in Windows...)

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