I wish I could get away with charging my clients a fee for every time they say "Minority Report" to me. I’m a commercial artist in L.A., and 90% of commercial art is shutting up and giving the client what they want. That means I spend a lot of time trying to repackage Steven Spielberg’s vision of the future: floating graphical windows with video hovering in them, typography flickering and animating in response to actors’ actions, interfaces appearing and disappearing when fingers reach out to poke them. In short, building a virtual iPad interface, hovering in front of the actor using it. In Spielberg's future, you only have to twirl your fingers at a computer screen to make it do what you want. It looks cool enough, but it's time for us to let it go: we’ve built our graphics and our electronics around interface eye candy, rather than trying to come up with new and more effective ways to control our real and imaginary gadgets. The best thing you can say about touchscreens are they look good on camera and they’re better than T9 texting, which is kind of like being better than fax machines
.It’s important, of course, to put this in context. Minority Report came out in 2002, and we had touchscreens for a long time before then. If you want to feel really let down by the future, here’s the Prius computerscreen-o-matic as interpreted by a 1987 Buick Riviera. Even multitouch had been played with before the movie came out—just in labs, and very expensively. Minority Report’s cleverness was not in inventing new technology from whole cloth, but in extrapolating existing tech into practical, consumer-friendly products.
In the run-up to production on the movie, Spielberg invited a panel of tech experts and self-identified futurists to an "idea summit." Their goal was to create a plausible description of the world of 2054 based on what was current, cutting-edge technology, rather than just constructing one from nothing. Self-driving cars, retina-scanning billboards and criminal-identifying spiderbots all made the resulting 80-page "2054 bible," but the most influential invention of the futurists is the gesture-controlled display.