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March 18, 2014updated 22 Sep 2016 2:26pm

The 5 technologies from Her we wish were real

Not that we want to fall in love with our iPads or something.

By Joe Curtis

Watching Spike Jonze’s latest film, Her, is like falling into tomorrow today. The movie about a man who falls in love with his operating system beguiles the viewer with a unique take on near-future technology where it is both less intrusive and more instinctive than now.

And appropriately for a film espousing human-AI relationships, you find yourself yearning after some of the technologies on display as much as the main character, Theodore Twombly, does.

Here’s five of the tech innovations that got our circuitboards overheating.

Better-than-AI operating systems

Me: Siri, do you love me?

Siri: You’re looking for love in all the wrong places.

This is the state of human-AI interactions today, even with Apple’s cutting edge voice activation. Granted, maybe Siri is just not as keen on us as we are on it, but really it lacks the emotional intelligence to truly grapple with such an interaction.

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In Her, it’s a different story. Samantha, the main character’s OS, ‘gets’ pop culture, boasts real-time image recognition to understand the world around her, and understands and responds to Theodore’s expressions and moods.

In fact, Samantha is even designed around Theodore’s personality: she is his perfect companion. Except that she is a little too smart for humans – if OS One (as the technology’s called in the film) does come to pass, don’t be surprised if your virtual lover grows bored of you.

Holographic video games

Illumiroom

In-game shot of Illumiroom in action – YouTube

In the film, Theodore passes time in his flat by playing gesture-led videogames that manifest as an interactive, holographic virtual reality that expands across his living room. Moving his hands like a T-Rex climbing a ladder, he makes his character run, and to talk to other characters, he actually talks.

Surprisingly we’re not too far away from that today. Microsoft’s Xbox technology Illumiroom was recently shelved because it’s too expensive to commercialise, but it’s a more primitive version of the same concept: graphics extend beyond the screen to cover the entirety of the living room, making it seem like you’re in the world of the game.

Just don’t stick Resident Evil on if the technology does go mainstream.

Letter writing service

Letters - Annilove, Flickr

We all love to receive a letter – courtesy of Flickr user Annilove

Theodore just has the best job ever (except this one of course) – he works for a company called Beautifulhandwrittenletters.com. Go to the website in real life and it redirects to a site about the movie, but in Her, his job is literally to act as the epistolary interlocutor for a lover, or daughter, or friend, or anyone who wants to send a beautiful handwritten letter to somebody they care for but doesn’t know how to write one.

He simply dictates to a desktop screen (yes, there’s still desktops in this future) and prints out the letter, which looks like it was written in flowing fountain pen ink. It raises intriguing questions about human interaction, and brands’ appropriation of that, but it’s also a lovely niche space to imagine: a moment of quiet in the mad rush of the modern day, with only the merest hint of surrender to technology.

Earpieces

Her earpiece

Suddenly, after the glut of Hollywood FBI agents furtively touching the sides of their heads and muttering, earpieces are cool again. The sleek inserts in Her are surely a must have for real life. You can take calls on them, but primarily they’re used by people to communicate with their operating system. For all their ubiquity (in one scene, everybody emerging from a subway tunnel is seemingly speaking to themselves with the earpiece in), they’re also unintrusive: you want some peace and quiet, you can just turn them off.

Smartphones look more like they did five years ago

Her smartphone

All Her movie stills from herthemovie.com

Speaking of turning things off, smartphones don’t really exist in Her as they do in real life. They’re much more of a tactile device than the oversized phablets of our world, and are usually used as eyes for the AI operating systems.

As production designer KK Barrett tells Wired, our devices "need too much attention. You don’t really want to be stuck engaging them. You want to be free.

"Everyone says we’re supposed to have a curved piece of flexible glass. Why do we need that? Let’s make it more substantial. Let’s make it something that feels nice in the hand."

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