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Future interfaces
– What the SciFi-scene promised us, and how far are we?

In the ever-evolving landscape of human-machine interaction, the concept of future interfaces has intrigued generations of dreamers, innovators, and storytellers. In a world where technology continually stretches our imaginations, we find ourselves at the crossroads of fiction and reality, pondering what lies ahead. Let's take a journey through time and cinematic realms, from the imaginative 1950s sci-fi to the awe-inspiring marvels of today, to explore the sci-fi scene's promises and how they've materialized in our world. This is an exploration of how films reference existing technology, how technology fuels filmmakers' creativity, how films, in turn, inspire new tech, and examples of fresh visions of interfaces.


This article is derived from my talk Future interfaces. That means that it could be seen not quite as connected article, but more me talking through the slides.

Table of Contents

  1. Definition of interface
  2. Now, where can I stick this?
    1. Predator
    2. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
    3. Star Trek: The Next Generation
    4. eXistenZ
    5. 2001: A space odyssee
    6. Star Trek: The Original Series
    7. Demolition Man
    8. FU-FME
  3. Yep, that's gonna leave a mark
    1. The Avengers
    2. Star Trek: The Next Generation
    3. The Hunger Games
    4. Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi
    5. Blade Runner
    6. Alien
    7. Red Planet
    8. Google Glass
  4. Heads up
    1. Minority Report
    2. Iron Man
    3. Joint Strike Fighter (sim)
    4. Hyper Reality
  5. You did WHAT with it!?
    1. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
    2. Minority Report
    3. The Matrix
    4. Prometheus
    5. Star Gate Universe
    6. X-Men
    7. Star Gate Universe
    8. Johnny Mnemonic
    9. Star Trek: The Next Generation
  6. Super Mario Bros. controlled with a theremin
    1. Fifth Element
    2. Total Recall
  7. It's SHOWTIME
    1. Mark Coleran
    2. Prometheus
    3. Guardians of the Galaxy
    4. Pacific Rim
    5. Iron Man 2
  8. I've shown you mine, now show me yours
    1. Limit Theory
  9. Bonus images
    1. Alien
    2. 2001: A space odyssee
    3. Mission to mars
    4. Star Trek: Into Darkness
    5. Jurassic Park
    6. Star Wars
    7. The day the earth stood still
    8. Star Trek: The Original Series
    9. Alien
    10. Back to the future
    11. Blade Runner
  10. The process
  11. Are we there yet?
    1. Ultrahaptics
    2. BMW's haptic interface concept car
    3. Electric vehicle engine experimental for Fantasy by Gleb Kuznetsov✈ for FΛNTΛSY
    4. Pizza Hut Concept Table
    5. AquaTop display
    6. inMode - Tangile Media Group, MIT Labs
    7. HCI Group, University of Munich
    8. Calart, Redesigning the rebel pilot targeting system
  12. Are we going somewhere?
  13. Closing thoughts

All futuristic interfaces are shit

Definition of interface

What is an interface? If you look up the definition, this is what you get:

Interface /ˈɪn.tə.feɪs/

As a noun:
noun: interface; plural noun: interfaces

  1. a point where two systems, subjects, organizations, etc. meet and interact.
    the interface between accountancy and the law
    • Physics
      a surface forming a common boundary between two portions of matter or space, for example between two immiscible liquids.
      the surface tension of a liquid at its air/liquid interface
  2. Computing
    a device or program enabling a user to communicate with a computer.
    a graphical user interface
    • a device or program for connecting two items of hardware or software so that they can be operated jointly or communicate with each other.
      an application program interface

As a verb:
verb: interface; 3rd person present: interfaces; past tense: interfaced; past participle: interfaced; gerund or present participle: interfacing

  1. interact with (another system, person, etc.).
    you will interface with counterparts from sister companies
  2. Computing
    connect with (another computer or piece of equipment) by an interface.
    the hotel's computer system can interface automatically with the booking system

But for this article, we are focusing on this:

  1. Computing
    a device or program enabling a user to communicate with a computer.
    a graphical user interface
    • a device or program for connecting two items of hardware or software so that they can be operated jointly or communicate with each other.
      an application program interface

Now, where can I stick this?

In this section, I try to point out the different interfaces we see in science fiction moves that require some sort of manipulation with the digits. (But I see that I have conflicting images for this section. I have left the order of the images intact, as it is in the talk I have, but I should rearrange them in an eventual revision...)


Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Many seem to think that Apple or Samsung had the first types of tables or pads (iPad), but many of the modern day technological marvels that we see as "standard" today, had their begin in fiction.

Star Trek: The Next Generation

This is not the earliest example of a tricorder that we see in the Star Trek franchise, but one of the most common in the shows after Star Trek ToS. Basically, it is a medical device that registers many vital properties on the subject examined.

Has there been any approach to create this in real life? Yes. The latest product that I heard of was, in the beginning something that popped out of Norway, and was aquired by GE Health. It was a handheld ultrasound device connected to any phone with a cord.

I see now that they have made it wireless, and it goes by the name of Vscan Air™ handheld ultrasound


A controller interface like the one depicted here from eXistenZ, is not uncommon today, in the shape and size of it. It looks very similar to a X-box controller or any other controller for a gaming console.

The key difference is what it is made of. This is a biological device, as in, it is made with living cells, grown into a controller. A bit freaky to be honest.

2001: A space odyssee

In 1968, when this movie was released, we see that the space suits used, depicted to be under 40 years from the time the movie was made, is not that too disimilar from the space suits that is used today. The bright color though perhaps stands out the most.

What we see though, is that the interface use for communications/controls seems to be mechanical and tactile. I would guess that the decision to design that interface was based on needs and not just "to look good".

Star Trek: The Original Series

Demolition Man

In this future, we do not have touched based sex. Boring. And that was what the character that Sylvester Stallone played though as well. He tries it, and then rips the interface off and have at it the old way.


Okay, I have got to be honest with you, this was put in my talk as a humourous piece, but it has some merit to it. The porn industry was one of the leading players within technology. The adult industry pioneered streaming videos, tracking devices and online credit card transactions. Some also argues for that without porn, the VCR might have never taken off as a consumer product.

The adult industry are not necessarily the inventors of new technologies, but they are the first to use them and thus drive consumer adaption.

But, in regards to the product displayed here, it was the male part of the product, that came with a female counterpart. You would plug the device into one of your 5.25 inch bays in your tower/computer, and have at it. But, this was a fad, thought up in the late nineties. It never came to the market, from what I could find.

However, we see that more and more sexual gadgets comes with remote control, and paired with VR headsets, it is beginning to take of, both for men and women.

Yep, that's gonna leave a mark

The Avengers

It looks very cool and sleek and futuristic, but trying to focus on something on a transparent screen? Yikes, that drains the mind.

Star Trek: The Next Generation

There is something simple and beautiful about this, so simplistic and so effective, or we are lead to belive it is in the Star Trek series. Every user of the system knows exactly where to press and what to do. I know that it is what they want us to believe in the shows, but if you come up with a UI system that actually works, without the need for bloated fanciness, the user is happy, right?

The Hunger Games

It looks cool, and blue.., but if I remember correctly, the desk interfaces also had a tangible component, either with ultrasound haptics or physical objects appearing when needed to allow for better control. It looks very fancy, but I would love to see the outcome of a user test for this system :P

Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi

Blade Runner


In many of the science fiction movies you that were made in the eighties or early nineties, you see that the interfaces mostly was comprised of 2 colors. A signal color like green, and a backdrop color that was black.

I remember from my earliest interactions with computers and computer games that we only had 2 colors. Not colors to choose from, but that was the colors that the current displays were capable of.

When I see these kind of interfaces, I get a bit nostalgic, but I also come to think about the simplicity of it. It is not cluttered with fancy UI stuff, but does what it is supposed to do. Relay information and handle input.

Red Planet

What I love about this scene, is that they pull up a "scroll" that contains a transparent LED screen with built in sensors and camera. They pull out the screen and overlay that over the horizon to get a visual match of the ridges, to get the location where they are. We have that technology today, but not put together.

In all practicalities a cool gadget, but the targeted user group, for now, is very limited.

Google Glass

Another product not reaching its full potential. I remember the hype, but it never really took of.

Heads up

In this section of the talk, I tried to combine cool Heads up display (HUD) uses in the science fiction scene. But also a real life HUD from the F-35, and a reel from the Augmented Reality (AR) scene.

Minority Report

This looks very rigid and fixed, and it's stock, meaning that it is not in particular tailored to the user.

Iron Man

I remember viewing a similar talk about this subject during an inhouse event at my previous company, and the designer that had that talk could not fathom the logic of the speed used in Tony Starks HUD. I was too fast. But what I reacted upon was that he did not see that the HUD Tony created, was for him. Not for any other user, but for himself. That means that the UI is bespoken to Tonys requirements and needs, to the point.

This is the reality we face daily (technologists and designers that makes UI), and that is that it is impossible to tailor fit whole experiences around one single user. We have to find the least common denominator, and hope that it will be a good fit.

I foresee that in the future of interfaces, experiencee has to be more and more tailored to the user.

Joint Strike Fighter (sim)

Hyper Reality

You did WHAT with it!?

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

Every time I see this scene, I crack up, it is hilarious how Scotty tries to use the computer. But he is savvy enough within usage of computers so he manages to get around the user obstacle and creates the recipe for transparent aluminium.

Minority Report

I never really quite understood the interface for this "device" from the movie. A lot of gesturing.

The Matrix

This is the most obtrusive interaction I have ever seen, if my memory serves me correctly. A male connector is inserted into a female port in the backside of the head, connection the brain steam and spine with the system.


Prometheus is for me one of the better visual movies, in both scenery, filmatography and also the visual effects. This scene is were they activate a star chart, and can navigate through it.

Star Gate Universe

I really loved Star Gate Universe. Brilliant actors, good story, but cancelled.. This is the Destiny interface chari, where the user is locked in and can control the ship. It uses brain waves to interface the "pilot" with the ship.


The Cerebro was a machine that was used to enhance brain waves, especially of those who are telepaths. You put on the head gear and it amplifies the brain waves.

Star Gate Universe

The simplest interface I have seen so far. You pick up a stone, put it on the lighted box, and your mind is swapped with a user on the other end. You can be on the other side of the universe, and still communicate through another persons body. Nifty.

Johnny Mnemonic

There is a reason why we do not use this everywhere, but at the time, it looked really cool! I remember I wanted one..

Star Trek: The Next Generation

We cannot mention interfaces and Star Trek without bringing up the holodeck. It is a technological marvel in that universe, letting you interact with objects thanks to hard light, and create every scenario you want.

Super Mario Bros. controlled with a theremin

Yeah, no. It is cool and all, but I see no real practical usage of theremins controlling other stuff. But, it is an interface. Boiled down, it is just gesture controls.

Fifth Element

Total Recall

Interfaces are not only UIs, it is also interaction with gadgets. We see that in the real world, there is a rising trend for printed nail polish. The product depicted under is a fairly large machines, but there are also machines that are smaller, like a small handbag size.


Over the years, I have watched countless of science fiction movies, and I was and still am amazed on how cool and frictionless the interfaces seemed to be. Characters seemed to operate every system pretty error free,and without hazzle. Which we all now in the UI world today is quite impressive. I've gathered some of the UI reels from the science fiction movies that I like.

Mark Coleran


Guardians of the Galaxy

Pacific Rim

Iron Man 2

I've shown you mine, now show me yours

Limit Theory

Bonus images

In the talk, I added some more images from the movies, talking about each one of them, to give more examples on future interfaces.


2001: A space odyssee

Dark room, bright lights, tangible buttons. Looks familiar?

Mission to mars

Simple, informative and bulky.

Star Trek: Into Darkness

Not a too big fan of the reboot timeline, and the lens flare over usage of JJ Abrams. But, it is a futuristic interface, and it is BLUE..

Jurassic Park

You simply cannot avoid mentioning this scene. It looked so cool! A 3d map of a database? Wicked. Usable? Not even if hell froze over. There are better ways of visualising a database, right?

Star Wars

Male port connecting to a female port, to access a computer. Oh, and of course, on every command, the access port has to be turned in different directions.

The day the earth stood still

Star Trek: The Original Series

Still, even though we are in the far future, the visual effects portrays the need for very striking visual colors on the buttons and nobs, but also very tangible buttons and nobs. And if I remember correctly, audible feedback when you pressed or flicked a switch. Seems crude, but it works.


Back to the future

Blade Runner

The process

  1. Films cite existing technology
  2. Technology inspires film
  3. Films inspire new technology
  4. Filmmakers and technologitsts develeop snared new visions

Are we there yet?


BMW's haptic interface concept car

Electric vehicle engine experimental for Fantasy by Gleb Kuznetsov✈ for FΛNTΛSY

Pizza Hut Concept Table

AquaTop display

inMode - Tangile Media Group, MIT Labs

HCI Group, University of Munich

Calart, Redesigning the rebel pilot targeting system

Are we going somewhere?

Well, obviously, but which direction and at what pace?

When it comes to interface design and creation of these, there are some easy development steps, for example on creating a HUD with frontend (JavaScript and CSS).

I have created a really simple and crude example on how you can start develop your own HUD. This code expects that the HUD is projected towards the user, like a back lit movie screen.

To be able to achieve that, we have to mirror the output, and that is very easy. Create your science fiction inspired HUD, and mirror it with 3 lines of code:

html {
  transform: scale(-1, 1);

Closing thoughts

From the influence we see within the science fiction scene, we see that there are several perspectives on how the future would look for interfaces, both visual interfaces for presentation, and tangible interfaces for control and feedback.

We see also that in some ways, we are not getting rid of the tangible. We humans seem to prefer the sense of touch. Not a radical thought in any way, since that sense has been perfected over hundreds of thousands of years in our biology. Specifically, we also see that trend in the automotive industry, where shiny and glossy touch screens are getting more and more replaced by buttons, which are more tactile and tangible.

For the visual part, we see that several directors tend to get more and more "posh" with their interfaces, leaving the UX (user interaction) to a stone cold zero percent. But it looks good, ey?

SciFi movies influence and are influenced by public perceptions of technology

It's not that the user interfaces that the effects designers were in anyway not cool or fancy of that ages, but design is not a constant. The interface design that looks futuristic today, could be obsolete tomorrow.

About the author

Hi! My name is Alexander, and I am a creative frontender, specializing in UX, accessibility, universal design, frontend-architecture, node and design systems. I am passionate with open source projects and love to dabble with new emerging technologies related to frontend. With over 24 years of frontend experience, I have earned the right to be called a veteran. I am a lover of life, technologist at heart. If I am not coding, I am cooking and I love whisky and cigars. Oh, and coffee, I LOVE coffee!

If you want to know more about me, here is some links you might want to check out: GitHub, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, CodePen, Slides.com, npm,


I am also an avid speaker on several topics! Check out some of the things I speak about, and contact me if you are interested in having me at your next event!