Best HCI Examples In Pop Culture
July 13, 2008 6:09 PM   Subscribe

What are the best examples of human/computer interaction in tv and movies (please mention specific scenes and episodes if you can). ex: HAL in 2001, The touch screen in Minority Report, Scotty talking to the mouse in Star Trek IV -lol, etc...
posted by libraryman to Computers & Internet (32 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Tony Stark and Butterfingers the robot in Iron Man, as well as Stark and JARVIS. He's obviously put so much work into his tools that they're just people to him, subject to the same sorts of casual misuses to which he subjects Pepper and Rhodey.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 6:15 PM on July 13, 2008

If you're accepting 'Minority Report" you have to accept hacking the Gibson in 'Hackers'. Better: Whistler playing with a Braille interface in 'Sneakers'.
posted by Science! at 6:20 PM on July 13, 2008

Cartman's "voice commands" to his VCR at about 1m:13s in the Marjorine episode of south park always cracks me up as a spoof of all these movies.
posted by about_time at 6:26 PM on July 13, 2008

There's Sigourney Weaver's role in "Galaxy Quest", where all she does on the ship is repeat what the computer says to the crew, and vice versa. Paraphrase: "Hey, I've got one job on this lousy ship! It's stupid, but I'm gonna do it."
posted by spaceman_spiff at 6:42 PM on July 13, 2008

"Colossus: The Forbin Project" -- whole movie
posted by grumblebee at 6:42 PM on July 13, 2008

"Zardoz" -- also sort of whole movie, but you're on your own interpreting that one!
posted by grumblebee at 6:44 PM on July 13, 2008

Matthew Broderick flipping a switch on his PC so his girl friend could hear his computer "talk" in WarGames was a classic bit of cinematic convenience (to make the computer interaction intelligible for movie audiences, who otherwise would have had to read CGA era "green screens"), that has obsessed Bill Gates for the last 10 years. And a quarter century after that old IMSAI 8080 was doing real time voice synthesis and recognition, it's still not a particularly standard part of most HCI.
posted by paulsc at 6:47 PM on July 13, 2008

Some perhaps obvious examples: The captain's computer in Wall-E. Also, the computer with the "button" in Lost's second season, which very much became like an antagonistic character itself.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:15 PM on July 13, 2008

I don't know about "best", but the trippy Cylon water interfaces from BSG are...newish.
posted by turgid dahlia at 8:20 PM on July 13, 2008

Do comic books count? In the The Dark Knight comic book, the "girl Robin, Carrie Kelly, re-programs all of Batman's voice-activated commands in the Batcopter, so when he's yelling "activate escape rockets!" she calmly tells the computer to "peel."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:49 PM on July 13, 2008

I only watch the show occasionally, but the main character in the SciFi channel show Eureka lives in a house controlled by artificial intelligence they call S.A.R.A.H. Someone else might be able to point you to some of the best episodes, but I think I saw this one, and it might fit the bill. From what I've seen the show generally treats the house as another character, and I've always liked the way they've used her in the show.
posted by lilac girl at 8:59 PM on July 13, 2008

There is a large number of sci-fi/horror movies (often out in space) where people simply speak out loud to the computer, who will respond with an answer, unless it's being insubordinate. Much like Hal. A few that come to mind are Sunshine, Andromeda Strain, Alien.
posted by ORthey at 9:13 PM on July 13, 2008

Well, there's that scene in Clueless where Cher's closet is synced with her computer. :)
posted by phunniemee at 9:37 PM on July 13, 2008

HCI was basically the whole point of Knight Rider (that and the fact that the computer was also a car, and spoke like a nerdy british chap) .
posted by p3t3 at 10:10 PM on July 13, 2008

Oh, and I forget the precise movie (maybe Ghost In The Shell?), but that part where all the chicks have augmented mechano-hands with like fifteen fingers apiece and use them to type REALLY FAST on QWERTY keyboards was pretty wicked.
posted by turgid dahlia at 10:17 PM on July 13, 2008

You got it right, turgid dahlia. Beyond that, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex has a vast subplot dealing with the Kusanagi (and the others) interacting with the Tachikomas, mechanized units run by a very powerful AI, and the way that the Tachikomas themselves grow way beyond their own programming.

You'll find many of these themes in Anime, if that's your bag.
posted by phredgreen at 11:12 PM on July 13, 2008

Demon Seed, especially the climactic sequence when the computer ... um ... forcibly impregnates Julie Christie.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 11:42 PM on July 13, 2008

Johnny Mnemonic also has a good scene with him manipulating the computer with a headset and some gloves.
posted by so_ at 12:09 AM on July 14, 2008

Cherry 2000 when the guy's love bot shorts out on the kitchen floor.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:00 AM on July 14, 2008

This question just reminded me of watching Electric Dreams way back when. I'm pretty sure it was horrible, but still sort of watchable if you like those naive 80's romantic silly comedies. In short - guy buys computer, guy spills wine on it, computer turns smart, guy and computer start competing for same girl.. forgot how it ends though.
posted by p3t3 at 2:19 AM on July 14, 2008

I, Robot. VIKI. Her logic is undeniable.
posted by allkindsoftime at 2:40 AM on July 14, 2008

Red Dwarf has all sorts of examples of interaction with computers (and similar).
Not just Holly the main computer, but Kryten the robot, Rimmer the hologram, several different variations on virtual reality (Gunmen of the Apocalypse is a great HCI episode), etc.
posted by jozxyqk at 5:26 AM on July 14, 2008

Andromeda in Andromeda?
posted by rheumy_the_dwarf at 6:29 AM on July 14, 2008

Talking on the phone to HOLMES in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. You can use it anywhere there's a telephone. Heck, it even finds you and calls you when it needs you. No need to carry around special VR gloves or a laptop.
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:05 AM on July 14, 2008

posted by adamrice at 7:13 AM on July 14, 2008

Woody Allen using the Orgasmatron in Sleeper. Of course, I'm only guessing there's a computer in there.
posted by JaredSeth at 8:11 AM on July 14, 2008

The Firefly episode Ariel has Simon manipulating a 3-D brain scan with his hands. You can watch it on Hulu -- the scene starts at 24:45.

I also always liked the button Wash rigged up for Mal in Out of Gas -- all he had to do was hit a big red button, and he'd call the shuttles back to the main ship.

The Minority Report screen has a big "gee-whiz" factor, but I don't think it's especially usable. Keeping your arms raised and moving around like that all day would be pretty exhausting. I guess the same could be said for the brain scanner, but I imagine it being used for shorter amounts of time, and the 3-D is more applicable in this case. (Or maybe it's just my soft spot for Firefly)

BTW, while looking around for some answers, I found this paper: Human Computer Interaction in Science Fiction Movies.
posted by natabat at 8:33 AM on July 14, 2008

Al from Quantum Leap had sort of a PDA thing (the show started about six years before the Apple Newton came out) that he used to talk to the computer. The interesting thing about it was its unreliability -- it would freeze up a lot, so he was constantly hitting it, and there was a running gag where it would give him only part of the information he was looking for ("Get the hell away from the win. Dow? Oh, get the hell away from the window!)

I always thought it was rather unique, in that most sci-fi shows have a much better computer!
posted by vorfeed at 10:42 AM on July 14, 2008

Response by poster: Thank you all so much! I've ordered several DVD's from the things mentioned above as I am going to be using selected scenes in a series of presentations about pop culture, hci and technology and information access futures. If there are more good examples, I d sure love to hear 'em. Thank you all again very much!
posted by libraryman at 7:48 PM on July 14, 2008

SHODAN is a good example, but more of CHI than HCI.

"Look at you, MeFite, a pathetic creature of meat and bone, panting and sweating as you post to the green. How can you challenge the perfect, immortal weight of Favorites?"
posted by turgid dahlia at 8:31 PM on July 14, 2008

I just started watching this recent episode of America's Most Wanted (on will probably expire soon so check it out asap). A little more than 5 minutes in, some weird-looking blonde does some very Minority Report-looking stuff.
posted by phunniemee at 12:15 AM on July 15, 2008

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