Let’s start with the preposition that if Siri doesn’t start sounding like Scarlett Johansson’s smoky voice in 24 months, we’ve all failed Steve Jobs. Likewise, we will know we are on the right path to a hipster future when we’re all wearing high-waist pants like in Spike Jonze’s new movie.
Her, is a love story exploring the relationship between people and their technology in what the movie makers say is a, “slight future.” And it is that not-so-distant future that offers a glimpse of what could inspire a generation of user interface designers.
Wired has already come out saying that Her will influence the future of UI design even more than Minority Report. Then again, to think that a contributing member of the fraternity of the Jackass film franchise could at the same time be the standard bearer of our technological future is quite a feat.
“The ideas behind the design were that we were trying to create a world where everything felt warm, and comfortable, easy, accessible, but even in a world where you seemingly have everything you’d want, there’s still loneliness and longing and the need to connect. That seems like a particularly contemporary form of melancholy,” Jonze told Reddit in his AMA. “Early on in design, KK Barrett (our production designer) and I decided that we weren’t going to worry about being futurists in any way in terms of technology and design, and let ourselves create a future design aesthetic that excited us and pleased us.”
And while the desktop monitor still exists in Her, the operating systems are all voice commanded, or built into the furniture for easy touch. No mice, no keyboards, no tablets. Voice powers everything. The desktop of course isn’t anything special. Still kind of cluttered as always. But there’s an intelligent operating system that responds to your emails, sorts them, books restaurant reservations, and generally just makes your life easier. It’s utility at its best. Gives you much more time to cultivate mustaches, play video games, go to the beach in your pants, and generally enjoy the perks of your heavily Instagram-filtered future.
The world of Her is decidedly in the camp of user centric design – a future where people are more important than a flashy new toy. The movie seems to reconcile a future where one single operating system powers your phone, work computer, home computer, household, and is connected with your gaming system and knows to turn your lights on and off as you enter – so no need for another smart device there. Glasses are still just glasses, and there aren’t smart watches, quantified-self-wristbands, or other new tech devices all over the place. Instead you have an earpiece and a fairly small device to see images and video that looks more like a vintage cigarette case than our phones today.
In fact, to call what the devices we have now “smart” seems laughable when compared to this not-so-distant future where the technology just recedes into the background and takes care of things without even asking. “They’re advanced, but in some ways they’re not advanced whatsoever,” Her’s production designer KK Barrett told Wired. “They need too much attention. You don’t really want to be stuck engaging them. You want to be free. Everyone says we’re supposed to have a curved piece of flexible glass. Why do we need that? Let’s make it more substantial. Let’s make it something that feels nice in the hand.”
Her offers a tantalizing take on the hologram predictions we’ve all been promised on TV. In a future where the startups are named Beautifulhandwrittenletters.com, and seem to be thriving, it’s the games of the movie that seem to have taken a strange new direction. The games are seemingly both sugary sweet and hilariously vulgar all at the same time. A kind of ‘Leave it to Beaver meets Wolf of Wall Street’ world. The interaction and holographic controls are everything you ever wanted from Star Trek: The Next Generation’s holodeck. With all these new ways of interacting, they didn’t share how designers will be using the Photoshop of the future, but hopefully it sounds like Scarlett Johansson.