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7 Questions for Oblong's John Underkoffler, the guy who designed Minority Report's Futuristic UIs

May 18, 2015 | Telepresence Options


Story and images by Co. Design

John Underkoffler Believes "Designing And Deploying Radically More Capable UIS Is One Of The Most Important Things We Can Do Today."

Even if you don't know the name "John Underkoffler," you surely know his work. His gesture-based interface for Minority Report influenced the 13 years of of user interface and hardware innnovation that have followed.


But Minority Report's magical UI is only one of many products to come from both his his days at MIT and his LA studio Oblong. And his consistent quality is why he received a 2015 Cooper Hewitt National Design Award for interaction design. In recognition of the win, Underkoffler agreed to go through our seven-question wringer.


What was the first thing you ever designed?

In ninth grade I wrote a primitive video game for the Apple II Plus in 6502 assembly language. The homage featured a bitmapped representation of the school's math-and-computer teacher (name withheld), whose notable features included an elegant Sam Elliott mustache and an omnipresent pipe. In the game, his disembodied head bounced around the screen (squash-and-stretch courtesy of pixel-level replacement animation), while the player used the arrow keys to slide a stem-skyward pipe across the screen's bottom. Tapping the space bar shot (ignoring actual smoker mechanics) the vertically arranged letters PUFF upward from the pipe's stem. When PUFF hit the head, the head disappeared leaving the mustache to flap off like a sad bat--the game's reward, such as it was ...


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