Self-funded PhD opportunities

Science Fiction in 3D User Interface Design

  • Application end date: Applications all year round
  • Funding Availability: Self-funded PhD students only
  • Department: School of Creative Technologies
  • PhD Supervisor: Dr Adalberto Simeone

Project description:

Three-Dimensional User Interfaces have been frequently portrayed in a wide-range of films and literature. For example: Star Wars, Star Trek, Minority-Report, Iron Man, etc. Although a number of real-world 3D interfaces exist today in the form of 3D modelling software, VR applications, games, etc., sci-fi works have been free to imagine what would be possible without technological limitations.

Indeed, the research community has started focusing more closely on the relationship between Science-Fiction and Fantasy, and Human-Computer Interaction. In some cases real-world technologies have either been inspired or portrayed first by Science-Fiction works (for example, videoconferencing in 2001: A Space Odyssey; multi-touch in Star Trek). In other cases scientists have collaborated with the development of films (The Martian, Interstellar) or performed in-depth evaluation of technologies portrayed as fictional (such as gestural interaction, as shown in Minority Report), discovering drawbacks seemingly ignored by their film representation (such as the fatigue resulting from keeping one’s arms extended for a long time).

One of the objectives of this research is to get a deeper understanding of the synergies between Science-Fiction and Human-Computer Interaction in the design process of 3D User Interfaces. Are there common patterns behind the most influential Sci-Fi concepts that were eventually successfully implemented in the real world? Which are the major Sci-Fi “open challenges” in terms of 3D User Interfaces? For example, some common themes in contemporary media are thin-air 3D User Interfaces, transparent displays, and human augmentations. Are there particular reasons behind the recurrence of these fictional technologies? Which real-world technologies could be used to approximate these technologies? Where physical constraints or current technological limitations make it impossible to investigate these technologies, how could we use Virtual Reality to evaluate the associated usability implications?

The prospective PhD student will conduct research in the directions outlined in this proposal and seek to create a body of knowledge on this topic. Specific case studies will be identified and demonstrative prototypal work will be carried out.

Suggested reading:

  • Bowman, Doug A., Ryan P. McMahan, and Eric D. Ragan. “Questioning naturalism in 3d user interfaces” Communications of the ACM 55.9 (2012): 78-88.
  • Mubin, O., Obaid, M., Barendregt, W., Simoff, S. and Fjeld, M., 2015, December. Science Fiction and the Reality of HCI: Inspirations, Achievements or a Mismatch. In Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Australian Special Interest Group for Computer Human Interaction (pp. 670-672). ACM.
  • Linehan, C., Kirman, B.J., Reeves, S., Blythe, M.A., Tanenbaum, J.G., Desjardins, A. and Wakkary, R., 2014, April. Alternate endings: using fiction to explore design futures. In CHI’14 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 45-48). ACM
  • Tanenbaum, Joshua. “Design fictional interactions: why HCI should care about stories” Interactions 21.5 (2014): 22-23.

How to Apply:

To apply or make an enquiry, please visit postgraduate research: Computing and Creative Technologies.

Applications should use our standard application forms and follow the instructions given under the ‘Research Degrees’ heading on the following webpage: