John Underkoffler is a designer whose present-day work is shaping the way our future will look. A digital interface expert whose inventions bridge the gap between Hollywood fantasy and real-world innovation, Underkoffler is the winner of a 2015 National Design Award for his revolutionary work on creating a “human-machine interface” that is already changing the way we interact with computers, data and technology.
John Underkoffler is the co-founder and CEO of Los Angeles–based Oblong Industries, where (among other things) he developed the “g-speak” interface—a piece of technology that lets users control computers with natural gestures instead of the awkward stockiness of a mouse or keyboard. Oblong’s goal is to create products and technologies that offer new forms of computation, creating user interfaces that offer an expanded idea of what our interactions with machines can look like, and what they can do.
And if all of this sounds like a science fiction film come to life, you’re not far off. Underkoffler has also been a science and technology advisor on films like Minority Report, Hulk, Aeon Flux, and Iron Man, where he helped design systems that aren’t too far off from the ones he’s been building in real life. Underkoffler holds a PhD from the MIT Media Lab, where his foundational work included innovations in optical and electronic holography, large-scale interactive visualization techniques, and the I/O Bulb and Luminous Room systems.
Future Tech Designing a New User Interface
How should a User Interface be? Revolutionary UI designer John Underkoffler says that if we’re going to live in an increasingly digital world, UI isn’t just an incidental aspect of tech or design—it’s a whole new language. As the inventor of the g-speak interface (a UI that lets users control technology with natural gestures) and the technological advisor for films like Minority Report and Iron Man, Underkoffler’s ideas about how human-machine interactions and interfaces are as beautiful as they are revolutionary. In this talk, he looks toward a future where technology is seamlessly integrated with our natural movements and gestures, and imagines the possibilities available to us in all areas of our lives as tech takes new leaps and bounds into the future.