Sony DataTiles Inspired By What SF Movie?

Sony DataTiles have resurfaced, thanks to YouTube. In the video shown below, the DataTiles from Sony's Computer Science Laboratories show their stuff. Jun Rekimoto, Brygg Ullmer and Haruo Oba wrote the original paper describing the DataTiles as "A Modular Platform for Mixed Physical and Graphical Interactions."


(Sony DataTiles in action)

The DataTiles use the following ideas about the way people interact with computers and data:

  • Tagged transparent objects as graspable interaction modules.
    It uses transparent acrylic tiles to serve both as physical windows for digital information and to trigger specific actions (e.g., launch an application, or submit a query) when placed on a sensor-enhanced display surface.
  • Mixed visual and physical interactions.
    Users can interact with the information displayed by DataTiles using a pen or mouse. In addition to normal GUI interactions (e.g., mouse operations and widget operations), several combinations of physical and graphical interfaces are possible. For example, a printed high-resolution image (on a tile) can be visually fused with dynamic displayed graphics. Grooves engraved upon the tile surfaces also act as passive haptic guides of pen operations.
  • Physical language for combining multiple tiles.
    Following a simple “tile language,” the placement of several tiles can compose a kind of 'sentence.' In this way, relatively simple combinations of tiles can express computational behaviors and functions.
If you are thinking you saw something similar in Minority Report, the 2002 movie by Steven Spielberg, you're right. In the film, transparent data tiles are used to move data and applications.


(Data tiles from Minority Report, 2002)

In the Sony DataTile video, a tile called the TimeMachine can be placed next to other tiles, in this case a weather forecast and a video. Rotating the "dial" on the TimeMachine tile causes the others to move.


(DataTile user rotates TimeMachine)

In Minority Report, Tom Cruise does exactly the same thing, but with the large screen. He uses his glove to conjure up a circular control; as he "dials" it, the video of the father and son in the foreground goes back and forth over time.


(Note "dial" in upper right - moves through father/son images)

However, if you guessed Minority Report as the inspiration for DataTiles, you're wrong. Sony's DataTiles date from 2001, if not a bit earlier. Minority Report was screened in 2002.

It turns out that the creators of Sony DataTiles directly credit 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke:

"Our inspiration for using transparent tiles as interface devices came from the film “2001: A Space Odyssey”, where the memory of the computer “HAL” was stored in transparent rectangular slabs."


(HAL 9000 undergoes memory modification)

Take a look at more real-world technologies related to the Minority Report movie and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Read more about the Sony DataTiles in DataTiles: A Modular Platform for Mixed Physical and Graphical Interactions.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 4/8/2007)

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