Thank You for Your Cooperation: Robocop and the Future of Search

One of the great things about technology – search in particular – is the chance to constantly explore where the world is headed. Parsing through current trends and dreaming up innovations that will be coming to light in the coming years can seem a lot like science fiction. So it was a natural fit when Sony Pictures asked us to come up with a concept for search in the not-too-distant future to showcase in the upcoming Robocop film (opening this week.)

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Of course, all of us at Microsoft were huge fans of the original Robocop character, and we are excited to be a part of the project. Since the film is set in 2028 (and not, say, 3028), the team wanted a vision for Bing that was true to the story and innovations on the horizon, but still very much grounded in today’s reality.

From 2001: A Space Odyssey to the Minority Report there is a long precedent of amazing visions of what technology will look like in the future. Microsoft is working to solve some very hard problems around voice recognition, image recognition, dimensional displays and other “natural user inputs” like gestures and eye gaze. Yet, some of the biggest solutions in search are less visible, like understanding people’s intent and reducing the clutter of search results that we know distract people. We knew that we didn’t want to do something over the top like a 3-D holographic search engine that would disrupt the audience and take them out of the movie’s narrative, so we decided to start simply using elements of Bing today.

Bing of Today:

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Our first sketch looked like this:

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Building off the voice recognition work we have released for Bing on Xbox and Windows Phone, in this vision of search, a character can speak in natural language and instantly receive accurate and relevant results. We also needed to convey millions of results without overwhelming the display with a barrage of links. The solution was to have elements continuously scrolling in and search results updating in a living animated way. We also envisioned a 3D display with the most important things in the foreground. As we know that digital data is going to continue to explode at an exponential rate, we called for the search results tally to be constantly updating as new information arrives. Here’s a peak at where we landed:

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It was a fun project for us to work on, and we hope you enjoy the film. Thank you for your cooperation.

– Dan Saimo, Phil Rogan, Britt Hansing , Michael Bray and Dale Ahn, Visual Team, Bing Studios

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