Her - Invisible Technology

I really enjoyed this film, not only from a pure cinema experience but also from a UI and technology point of view.

I came across some really interesting terms when reading articles about Spike Jonze's approach. Terms like 'slight future', 'invisible technology', 'people-centric technology', 'undesigning' all give you an idea of the future portrayed in the film.

The first term 'slight future' has been used to describe the timeline in which the film is set, which helps guide the approach to technology. I like that they've referenced how technology exists today and evolved it slightly. Currently technology is in your face, it's very visible and appears everywhere you look. In Jonze's slight future, technology is invisible. Technology isn't about the initial novelty of touching a screen and having things happen. The novelty is over, it's now about people carrying on with their lives and having technology help them quietly. Where technology recedes into the background like incidental interfaces.

This is evident in the main character Theo Twombly's smart house, where the lights turn on automatically as he enters a room and dims as he leaves another. Also at his job, all computers are devoid of keyboards and he transcribes his letters through voice recognition.

The earpieces that everyone uses is also very interesting. I’m generally not a fan of the idea, more because I don’t like the idea of people constantly talking in public. But I love that unlike Google Glass, which augments images into your vision, an earpiece is less invasive. You could be absorbing content whilst doing other things, without needing to avert your gaze.

The hologram sequence itself almost warrants another post but I’ll keep it short. The experience looks great, and very immersive. But it raises interesting UX and design issues, like where does the frame end? How do you design for this? There’s also a shot where Twombly takes a bite of his sandwich and the game character replicates the action, when does the game interactions start and stop? Also I found it strange that the foul-mouthed alien character was able to respond to non-game related dialogue and content. What does this mean to the overall game experience?

Not only is this a great interpretation of a slight future, but it's important to acknowledge that this is first and foremost a film about people and relationships. It is a remarkable effort to be able to create such a world which also works with the screenplay and the telling of a story. I know Jonze didn't want actors fiddling around with devices and interfaces as it doesn't make for a very compelling viewing experience. So the earpieces were an interesting solution to storytelling, while also working nicely within his future vision.

I really love that Jonze and his team set out to explore this world so thoroughly and that they created rules and laws to dictate how things would actually work. I genuinely enjoyed this film and I encourage you to check it out, if you haven't already. I appreciate it even more after reading up about it.

Check out the hologram sequence (explicit language warning!)

Article by WIRED: Why Her Will Dominate UI Design Even More Than Minority Report.