Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Star Trek Controls Going into New U.S. Spacecraft

Star Trek-style technology is becoming reality around us everyday. We have cell phones that look like the old communicators that Kirk flipped open. E-readers like the Kindle and tablets like the iPad are a lot like the Next Generation-era padds (Personal Access Display Device) that Picard and others used. There are lots of things that we are bringing from Trek’s future into our present.
There was a two-part episode of Voyager called “Future’s End” that even flirted with the idea that someone in the mid-20th century found Trek technology from the future and used it to launch the micro-computer revolution we are living in today. That episode itself used lots of themes and jokes from the Voyage Home feature film. The Trek folks are meta like that.
A 1993 study from Purdue University found that children learn more about science from Star Trek than from any other source.
And now we have the news from Air & Space Smithsonian that a new American spacecraft is being built that will utilize another Star Trek feature. Not warp nacelles or tractor beams, but something very familiar to all Trek fans from Next Generation forward.
The Orion capsule will feature very few control switches, as were in NASA craft of the past, and instead move to a touchscreen interface. The system is called “eProc” (electronic procedures), and is programmed to bring up the needed pages of icons as the user navigates the interface.
Trek fans will remember LCARS, the interface used in Trek computers, that was all touchscreen. LCARS is an acronym for Library Computer Access/Retrieval System. Scenic art supervisor and technical consultant Michael Okuda designed the LCARS interface to make the bridge of the newest Enterprise look clean and sleek.
“I came up with the LCARS style in part because of Gene Roddenberry’s directive that he wanted his new Enterprise to be so advanced that it looked simple and clean,” Okuda said. “The other part of the LCARS style was that it had to be something that could be manufactured quickly and easily on a television budget.”
The original setup on TNG was a simple plexiglass front with backlit printouts of the buttons needed. Later they installed video monitors within the panels so the interface could be changed at will.
Nowadays, we are used to the notion of touchscreen interfaces. They are in most smartphones, thanks to Apple leading the way with the iPhone. You can even get apps and wallpapers that will make your smartphone look like it is sporting the LCARS system.
There is even a very geek-centric website that is designed around the LCARS interface.
Image via YouTube
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