“Make It So: Interaction Design Lessons from Science Fiction” by Nathan Shedroff & Christopher Noessel; O’Reilly Media

This is an entertaining and fascinating look at how the world of science fiction films and television shows can provide lessons in design and usability in the real world. The book surveys a wide variety of technologies and interfaces from science fiction and provides a discussion of why they work in their cinematic context, how they can inform design in the real world, and in some cases why they would not work. From the examples an extensive list of ‘lessons’ for interactive design is presented, often using ‘apologetics’ to provide sensible solutions to design issues where the invented technology doesn’t quite work for the real world, or maybe how the parts that are left to our imagination might work.

Chapters show science fiction examples of interfaces that are probably familiar to designers in the real world such as visual interfaces, gestural interfaces, learning, communication, and augmented reality, whilst others cover ‘forgotten’ technologies such as mechanical controls and sonic interfaces. There are also chapters covering technologies that are still considered futuristic such as volumetric projection, medical technologies, and interfaces to the brain. I found the chapters about the familiar technologies the most interesting because they provided ideas on how these can be improved and extended, whereas the more ‘far-out’ technologies were less easy to take on the lessons, even though they had some validity to real-world problems.

I enjoy science fiction, and recognised many of the examples, but by no means all. I think this book would be of interest to anyone with an interest in design or science fiction. I enjoyed having the opportunity to look at the technology in science fiction is a new way, and being reminded why the stuff you take for granted on the screen works or doesn’t. It is always useful to have a reminder of the ‘lessons’ of interaction design and usability. In fact this book might make an excellent Christmas present for developer’s who don’t like thinking about users. The book is well written and was enjoyable to read and provided me with some ideas for future projects.

Find out more from the O’Reilly product page.

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