Mining Movies: Part 5

Once you get past the duck pond filled with floating psychics, Minority Report gets under your skin the way a good movie should. It's set in the future during a time when futuristic Washington, D.C. has adopted an approach to law enforcement called precrime, arresting people before they commit crimes that the floating psychics —precogs— can see are about to happen. It's Tom Cruise's job to capture the bad guys before they go bad. He does, but in this world, the thought is as bad as the deed.

Like most movies that deal with the future, Minority Report is ultimately about fate vs. free will, centralized control vs. civil rights, but above all, really cool tech, like the ubiquitous eye scanning technology that recognizes people wherever they go. In the movie, a clothing store recognizes customers and tells them about sales on their favorite fashions. The same technology could be used to recognize students as they enter a library, telling them that a new book by their favorite author has come in. It could also be used to report that a student has left school unauthorized. In any event, this biometric technology of tomorrow will certainly be controversial — pushing every Big Brother button we have.

But the real star of Minority Report is Cruise's computer, which uses hand and body motion as the primary ways of moving and controlling images on the screen. As Cruise waves his arms around like an orchestra conductor, you realize the inevitability of new machines that use expressive kinesthetic interfaces. One day, sitting behind a computer could become dancing with your computer.

Jason Ohler can be reached at