Dan Hon makes a thought-provoking assertion in his blog: remember all the ridiculous, unrealistic computer interfaces that Hollywood characters are always using, showing “hackers” infiltrating systems by flying through virtual reality worlds of strange codes, and cutesy animations accompanying every task? Hon’s point is that instead of ridiculing these unrealistic interfaces, maybe we should try to emulate them. He makes a pretty good case.I’m certain that most of the readers of OSNews have spent a fair amount of time designing the perfect operating system in their heads, or talking it over with their friends. OSNews was born after I spent a six hour car ride engaged in just such a conversation with a few friends. But technologists tend to focus on utility, and usually strive for simplicity. Computer power users often denigrate the features of their OS that are intended to help lesser mortals navigate the computer, because they’re less efficient. How many times have you watched someone painstakingly navigate a nest of menus to do something, and you want to shake them and say, “learn the keyboard shortcut, moron!”
But the part of this blog post that really struck me was the discussion of using animation to hint at the importance of what’s happening on the computer. When Mr. Incredible is lifting something heavy and important, you can see that on the screen, but when you’re deleting half your hard drive, or your doctoral dissertation, it’s displayed the same ways as when you’re clearing your web cache.
The idea of injecting animation-as-storytelling into the personal computer experience is so simple that it took me a while to realize that it could also be earth-shattering. And of course we now have both the powerful hardware and software to do the kinds of data analysis and real-time animation that would be necessary to make this a reality. And of course, most of the time all this power is just lying idle while we read blogs. I’d like to see this idea go someplace.
Of course, the problem with “Movie OS” is that an animation that moves the story along would be incredibly annoying to have to wait through every time you do a routine task, so you can’t take the joke too far. By no means would I advocate copying the silly ideas you see in movie UIs. But the idea that what we see on the screen should tell the story is worth thinking about.