Interesting Technology

Kinect meets Minority Report

A group at MIT has created a hand-detection system using Microsoft’s Kinect sensor device.

Researchers at the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT have modified it so that it resembles the hand gesture interface imagined in Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report (2002).

Based around a camera, Kinect allows users to control and interact with the Xbox 360 console without the need to touch a controller using gestures, spoken commands, or presented objects and images.

The team at MIT created a hand detection system using the Kinect camera, which recognises the position of the palms and fingers of the users.

Systems Robotics Engineer Garratt Gallagher has released this video:

Minority Report is about a “precrimes” unit (led by Tom Cruise), who prevent murders before they occur in Washington 2054.

One of the ways they do this is through an interface which allows them to see details of crimes about to be committed:

Part of the reason it has proved so prescient is that Spielberg consulted several experts for a three-day think-tank back in 1999.

He was keen to depict plausible ideas for the futuristic setting and one of the advisors was John Underkoffler, who designed the interface used in the film.

Back in February he spoke at TED about his work on the film and the influence it continues to have on user interface design.

Among the other things ‘predicted’ by the film include personalised ads (Facebook, Adsense), 3D video (CNN hologram) and even insect robots (micro-robotic systems).

[Via Engadget]

> MIT Computer Science and AI Lab
> The Guardian on Why Minority Report was spot on
> The technology in Minority Report at Wikipedia

blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD & Blu-ray Releases: Monday 17th May 2010



Minority Report (20th Century Fox Home Ent.): Steven Spielberg’s 2002 sci-fi thriller arrives on Blu-ray and has already garnered high praise for the quality of the transfer and extras. Adapted from Philip K Dick’s short story, it is set in Washington, 2054 where crime can be predicted by a specialised police unit using advanced technology and three psychics. When the head of the ‘Precrime’ unit (Tom Cruise) is shocked to see himself as a future murderer, he goes on the run and tries to figure out a murder he is going to commit.

Possibly Spielberg’s best film of the last decade, Minority Report featured a stellar supporting cast (Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton, Max Von Sydow) and a convincingly dystopian view of the future. Like Blade Runner it combines a film noir narrative with a vision of a divided society where technology throws up recurring ethical dilemmas. The production design and distinctive look of the film, especially the visual effects, have made it a favourite in tech circles as the touch screen technology appears to have had an influence on devices (iPhone, iPad) and operating systems (Windows 7) since its release.

The Blu-ray has already got raves for the quality of the transfer. Gary Tooze of DVD beaver has described it as:

“impeccable – representing the film with pin-point authenticity. Achieving the intended appearance so succinctly I’d have to say this image quality is quite perfect – as perfect as I have seen in a while. It appears to look EXACTLY as the film was meant to. If you aren’t keen on the appearance blame the filmmakers not this pristine transfer”

There is actually a second Blu-ray disc featuring a lot of extras in HD as well as the features that were included in the standard 2002 DVD release.

The extras break down like this:

  • The Future According to Steven Spielberg (18-part – 34:03 in HD)
  • Inside the World of Precrime (10:11 in HD)
  • Philip K. Dick, Steven Spielberg and Minority Report (14:19 in HD)
  • Minority Report: Future Realized (6:22 in HD)
  • Minority Report: Props of the Future (9:42)
  • Highlights from Minority Report From the Set (2 pieces): The Hoverpack Sequence (6:06 in HD); The Car Factory Sequence (2:57 in HD)
  • Minority Report: Commercials of the Future (3:55 in HD)
  • Previz Sequences: The Hoverpack Sequence Previz (1:43 in HD); Maglev Chase Previz (2:10 in HD)
  • Previously Released Special Features (duplicated from the last DVD – all in SD)
  • From Story to Screen (19:03 in total): (2 pieces): The Story/The Debate (9:36); The Players (9:27)
  • Deconstructing Minority Report (42:06)
  • The Stunts of Minority Report (26:45)
  • ILM and Minority Report (6-part – 20-minutes in total)
  • Final Report (3:59)
  • Production Concepts / Storyboard Sequences
  • Three Trailers in HD

[Buy Minority Report on Blu-ray]

The Road (Icon Home Entertainment): The film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s 2006 novel is a haunting tale of survival in a post-apocalyptic world featuring two outstanding lead performances. It depicts the journey of a father (Viggo Mortensen) and son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) across an America which has descended into savagery after an unspecified environmental and social collapse. Part of the story’s raw power is the absence of any explanation as to why the world is collapsing, which shifts the focus on to the central relationship and the day to day struggle to survive.

Given that the story involves suicide, cannibalism and humans acting like savages you have to give credit to director John Hillcoat (who made the gritty Australian western The Proposition in 2005) and screenwriter Joe Penhall (author of the acclaimed play Blue/Orange) for properly translating the horrors and emotions of the novel into a film. It was this authentic rawness that probably meant that it was never going to be a huge box office hit, but there is much to admire here. The visuals look particularly striking: cinematographer Javier Aguirresa opts for a brownish palette to depict the harsh, ash-ridden environment; the art direction and production design also makes very clever use of rural US locations to create a chilling post-apocalyptic world.

Audiences unfamiliar with the novel may be taken aback by how bleak the story is and the film certainly doesn’t pull its punches: roaming gangs of cannibals, potential suicide and houses filled with half alive bodies are just some aspects that will disturb, although the most notorious scene from the book is omitted. Another thing to look out for is the interesting supporting cast, which is filled with excellent performances – most of which are extended cameos – from Charlize Theron, Robert Duvall and Guy Pearce. The soundtrack by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis strikes an appropriately mournful tone with a notable piano motif reminiscent of Arvo Paart.

The special features on the Blu-ray include:

  • Special features include:
  • Director’s commentary
  • Deleted and extended scenes
  • The Making of The Road
  • Two theatrical trailers
  • BD-Live
  • movieIQ+sync

[Buy The Road on Blu-ray / Buy it on DVD]


About Last Night (Sony Pictures Home Ent.) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Atonement (Universal Pictures) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (Universal Pictures) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Creepshow 2 (Boulevard Entertainment Ltd) [DVD]
Institute Benjamenta (BFI) [Blu-ray & DVD]
Night of the Living Dead (Boulevard Entertainment Ltd) [Blu-ray]
Ninja Assassin (Warner Home Video) [Blu-ray & DVD]
Porcupine Tree: Anesthetize (Kscope) [Blu-ray & DVD]
Pride and Prejudice (Universal Pictures) [Blu-ray]
Privilege (BFI) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Rhythm Is It! (Wienerworld) [Blu-ray]
Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll (EV) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Sherlock Holmes (Warner Home Video) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Slugs (Boulevard Entertainment Ltd) [DVD]
Spread (Optimum Home Entertainment) [Blu-ray / DVD]
St Elmo’s Fire (Sony Pictures Home Ent.) [Blu-ray]
The Man Who Would Be King (Sony Pictures Home Ent.) [DVD]
The Party’s Over (BFI) [Blu-ray & DVD]
The Pleasure Girls (BFI) [Blu-ray + DVD]
True Blood: Season 2 (Warner Home Video/HBO) [Blu-ray / DVD]
True Blood: Seasons 1 and 2 (Warner Home Video/HBO) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Valhalla Rising (Momentum Pictures) [Blu-ray / DVD]

> The Best DVD and Blu-ray releases of 2009
> UK cinema releases for Friday 14th April including Robin Hood, American: The Bill Hicks Story and Lebanon

Interesting Technology

Wired on the technology predicted by Minority Report

Wired magazine have an interesting feature on six real gadgets that Minority Report predicted correctly.

The 2002 sci-fi thriller stars Tom Cruise as a Washington cop in a special unit called ‘Precrime’ that apprehends criminals based on foreknowledge provided by three psychics termed ‘precogs‘.

Set in 2054, it features all kinds of interesting technology, partly because in pre-production director Steven Spielberg convened a think-tank to brainstom details of what a future reality might look like.

They included: Long Now Foundation president Stewart Brand, author Douglas Coupland, Cybergold founder Nat Goldhaber, biomedical researcher Shaun Jones and virtual reality expert Jaron Lanier.

The Wired article points out that the film suggested the following developments:

  1. Gesture-based Computer Interfaces
  2. Flexible Displays
  3. 3-D Holograms
  4. Identity-Detecting Advertisement Cameras
  5. Robot Scouts
  6. Predicting Mistakes
I remember seeing the film in June 2002 (if I remember correctly Frank Skinner and Graham Linehan were also there) and the tech aspect that struck me most was the multi-touch hologram display Cruise’s character manipulates in order to view images.

Were Apple’s engineers influenced by this when the created the iPhone multi-touch interface?

This video points out that the sound on an iPhone appears to be some reference to the film.

UPDATE 14/11/08: Engadget have a video of the interface developed by one of the science advisors from the film (along with a team of other visionaries).

Dubbed g-speak, the OS combines “gestural i/o, recombinant networking, and real-world pixels,” to deliver what the creators call “the first major step in [a] computer interface since 1984.”.

g-speak overview 1828121108 from john underkoffler on Vimeo.

> Read the full article at Wired
> Minority Report at the IMDb


Real life locations used in famous Sci-Fi films

Oobject has posted an interesting list of real life locations used in notable sci-fi films.

The list includes:

> Check out the full list over at Oobject
> A list of films with interesting architecture at the University of Waterloo
> Architechnophilia – blog on architecture