Iron Man’s HUD and interaction design

by Andy Polaine on May 30, 2008

in General

The current issue of Desktop has a snippet from my interview with Dav Mrozek Rauch from The Orphanage talking about their work on the HUD for Iron Man. If you click on video and then “Run Before You Can Walk” in the widget above, you’ll get a reasonable taster of it.

One of my favourite parts of chatting to him was hearing about the interaction design issues that came up in terms of the relationship between the suit known as Jarvis – the computer that Downey Jr.’s character, Tony Stark, interacts with – and Stark. For example, what should come first when his eyes look in a particular direction? Is he looking at something and then the HUD responds, or does the HUD show him something and he looks at it?

“We would just get these plates of him in front of a green screen and say, ‘Okay, now he’s looking to the left, what should he be looking at on the HUD? Put something cool in.’ But no matter how cool the thing you put in it’s not going to look right or seem real unless you know what story it should be telling.”

“I asked John Favreau and he said, ‘He’s having a conversation with Jarvis, it depends on who’s asking the question’,” says Rauch.

“If Tony asks a question then Jarvis responds, if Tony is flying and he’s hit then Jarvis throws up some information and Tony looks at it. Once I started looking at the shots like that it became so obvious. What was really interesting for myself and the team is that we weren’t just making visual effects, we weren’t just doing design, we were filmmaking and we were making stories and doing it in a very collaborative way.”

It’s an interesting set of interaction issues to deal with and they’re only a tiny bit in the future. We’ve all seen disastrous versions of this with Microsoft’s Clippy, after all.

I also found the discussions they had about interface colours and design approaches insightful:

“Amber is kind of the 80s and cyan is the 90s, what’s the colour of the future going to look like? What’s the next iPhone or Motorola going to look like? We really had to pull out all the stops for the Mark II and then think about how to make things more simple for the Mark III, because that’s how design usually works. It’s starts out complex and then gets more simplified.”

In midst of the searching for the perfect user-experience I think we forget how influenced we are by fashions and also how fashions and Hollywood movies affect audiences’ and users’ mental schemas of interfaces – think Minority Report and multi-touch, for example.

In a few months I’ll be able to post the whole interview here – Dav also chatted about some of The Orphanage’s commercial animation work and their experiments with a kind of 2D/3D hybrid.

But for the moment go and buy a copy of Desktop!

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