Presented By
O’Reilly + Cloudera
Make Data Work
29 April–2 May 2019
London, UK

Science-Fictional User Interfaces

Mars Geldard (University of Tasmania), Paris Buttfield-Addison (Secret Lab Pty. Ltd.)
17:2518:05 Wednesday, 1 May 2019
Strata Business Summit, Visualization and UX
Location: Capital Suite 10/11
Secondary topics:  Visualization, Design, and UX

Who is this presentation for?

Everyone. But those working on UX, or in teams with a UX/end-user component, will get the most from it.



Prerequisite knowledge

None! A knowledge of sci-fi would make it more fun though!

What you'll learn

What can be learnt from the way sci-fi presents AI-driven AI and how to apply it.


Science-fiction has been showcasing complex, AI-driven (often AR or VR) interfaces (for huge amounts of data!) for decades. As television, movies, and video games became more capable of visualising a possible future, the grandeur of these imagined science fictional interfaces has increased. What can we learn from Hollywood UX? Is there a useful takeaway? Does sci-fi show the future of AI UX?

Academics have often suggested that sci-fi is, by definition, a contribution to HCI (human-computer interaction) and design. Sci-fi has the freedom to disregard technical feasibility with conceiving of grand UIs, and ways to present big data, big ideas, and complex problems and scenarios. Can we actually learn anything from this and apply it to presenting big data, complex problems and scenarios to the real world? Does that change in this emerging world of AI? How about AI mixed with AR and VR?

We’ll discuss the past 100 years of sci-fi UI, and discuss what you can learn from it. How can we be inspired by the science-fictional, and bring it to the real world? Does AR and VR inevitably mean the future of computing will resemble Minority Report, Star Trek, or Iron Man?

Sci-fi shows us a lot of user interfaces where interruptions don’t matter, and the contextual interface provides fluid, predictive access to all sorts of data. Sci-fi UI is the ultimate in data-driven design, and designing for outcomes. Does it actually work?

In this session, two sci-fi nerds, who are also researchers, authors, and computer scientists, will explore what we can learn from sci-fi user interfaces, and how that can impact the new world of building interfaces and visualisations for a world full of AR, VR, ML, AI, big data, and other buzzwords too numerous to list. It’ll be fun, we promise.

Photo of Mars Geldard

Mars Geldard

University of Tasmania

Marina Rose Geldard, more commonly known as Mars, is a technologist from Down Under in Tasmania. Entering the world of technology relatively late as a mature-age student, she has found her place in the world: an industry where she can apply her lifelong love of mathematics and optimization. When she is not busy being the most annoyingly eager student ever, she compulsively volunteers at industry events, dabbles in research, and serves on the executive committee for her state’s branch of the Australian Computer Society (ACS) as well as the AUC ( She is currently writing ‘Practical Artificial Intelligence with Swift’, for O’Reilly Media, and working on machine learning projects to improve public safety through public CCTV cameras in her home town of Hobart.

Photo of Paris Buttfield-Addison

Paris Buttfield-Addison

Secret Lab Pty. Ltd.

Dr Paris Buttfield-Addison is co-founder of Secret Lab, a game development studio based in beautiful Hobart, Australia. Secret Lab builds games and game development tools, including the multi-award-winning ABC Play School iPad games, the BAFTA- and IGF-winning Night in the Woods, the Qantas airlines Joey Playbox games, and the open source Yarn Spinner narrative game framework. Previously, Paris was mobile product manager for Meebo (acquired by Google). Paris particularly enjoys game design, statistics, the blockchain, machine learning, and human-centered technology research and writes technical books on mobile and game development (more than 20 so far) for O’Reilly Media. He holds a degree in medieval history and a PhD in computing. Find him online at and @parisba

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