Large Image Display:Chrysalis: Natural User Interface in Surveilance


Chrysalis is a very dark French film. It aired in 2007, and has two versions. One, in French, conveys the original intent of this cyberpunk-themed film noire movie. The other, in English, hams it up ridiculously.

We would always recommend procuring the French version of this film - with subtitles - to take in the original intent, and to avoid the urge to switch the TV off. The film itself is at times mediocre, at times brilliant. However, it is as a rich breeding ground to visual examples of potential uses of VR and related technologies that the film truly shines. In each case, it cannot help but pause and contemplate the social and legal effects of such.

This Still

This is the second resource looking at the variant of Natural User Interfaces (NUIs) that Chrysalis uses for general office work. As always with NUIs, the emphasis is on Natural User Interfaces rather than the other way around – in other words its not a user interface in the classic sense, but a means for the person using the system to work naturally and have the interface alter to suit their needs.

This is the same desk we looked at in part one, where the Police Commissioner was sitting behind it in her office, working on paperwork. She was using a stylus instead of a pen, signing forms that were actually files in the system, simply represented visually on the surface of the desk, before moving them to destination folders with a flick of the wrist.

This time however, we are a little later on in the film, and are looking at surveillance video footage taken by cameras connected to the police database.

This is after all a computer interface, part multi-touch touchscreen, and part monitor (along with functioning as a normal desk). So, in order to handle all manner of work, it makes sense that it is able to both display and provide interface for all manner of files.

In order for work to flow naturally, as in the quick 'wrist flick' visual folding and filing of digital paperwork shown the first time we saw this desk, it was obvious it would be able to handle rapid updates of many times per second. So, why not full-motion video?

That is precisely the function being applied here, with the direct output of a CCTV recording, open on the desk where a piece of paper might normally be. This capability is a bit more complex than the one we saw before, but again its a NUI – all the work is handled by the computer system in the desk with the aim of making the interface as natural and intuitive as possible for the person using it.

In the commissioner's hand in the still we see that same stylus she was using earlier. The pen shaped control system is the same size and shape as a pen – and if its anything like its real-world counterparts, it weighs as much as a normal pen as well. Here though, she is not using the pen to write with, but to point out features of interest on the video, and request further information.

Control the speed of playback like with any video, only instead of pressing buttons or using a mouse, tap the stylus at the control you wish to use. The playback responds smoothly and immediately, with variable speed controls quite possible. Picture it again like the piece of paper, but where every idly drawn control actually functions, and as crazy as it sounds,actually works as intended.

Circle a suspect's head on the video, and the computer kicks in, wondering what's so important about the area circled. Image recognition finds a face in the circled area, and automatically cross-checks to the police database and begins searching for a possible match.

If that is not the function desired, close the new file opened to the side of the main video with a suspect named on it, or simply drag it to a different part of the surface, to deal with later. Zoom in closer on an area of the video with a different command. A square instead of a circle say, drawn with flicks of the stylus. The computer recognises it, and obeys.

Basically, it is the same gesture recognition as before, but different functions unique to the file-type. The user doesn't wish to sign the video, so switch seamlessly from handwriting detection to concentrate on video manipulation commands.

Still monitoring the fine movements of the stylus however, so that if she does start handwriting notes, don't force her to open a file to put them in; instead detect she has started writing, interpret those letters and automatically open a 'paper file' under the stylus to accept that note-taking, without clearing the video off, or making the video 'lose focus' – commands default to that still.

In short doing everything the system can, to make the interface as simple, painless, and above all natural for the person using it. That is fundamentally what NUIs are all about.

Now, we hopefully don't have to wait too long for actual touchscreen interfaces to advance to the point depicted here. After all, as is usual for Chrysalis, everything depicted, we already actually have, in one form or another.


Image 2 of 2 Chrysalis' views on tabletop NUIs.

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