Movie Gadget Friday: Brazil

Ariel Waldman contributes Movie Gadget Friday, where she highlights the lovable and lame gadgets from the world of cinema.

We last left off Movie Gadget Friday on board the Icarus II in the near-futuristic film of Sunshine. This week we transition from space travel to a totalitarian, 20th century, terrorist-ridden society in Terry Gilliam's Brazil. A hybrid between the sexy saxophone solos and gender role reversals of the 1980's with the "Keep Calm and Carry On" culture of the 1940's and 50's, this film dabbles between reality and a dream-like state.

Cyborg Typewriter

This "handhold" device clamps around your hand and five fingers for allowing typing speeds upwards of 150 wpm. Wired between stereo headphones and a flat touch-sensor keyboard, the brace around the hand augments the user's typing accuracy and pace. The exposed wires act as inputs from any user-received audio and mechanically command via electric impulses exact transcripts to be typed out. The system is spoken-language friendly and can determine onomatopoeias, thus eliminating Google-like "did you mean...?" behavior. While it may make a secretary job more efficient, we have to wonder if the inevitable constant hand cramps are worth it. More after the break.

Computer Console

Minimalist in design, these rounded corner consoles combine computational power with entertainment value. The console is able to easily interchange between a text terminal interface and a mediocre resolution television. Though the device was designed with some flexibility in mind (it comes attached to a bendable neck), it fails at delivering some basic functionality. Unless its core users enjoy squinting, most need to install a magnifying add-on for reading text due to its one-size-only construction. We additionally found it annoying how it beeps with every. single. character. input.

Inspector Robot

Inquisitive and impolite, this probing robot wanders the halls of the Ministry of Information as an autonomous spy. The inspector robot comes equipped with three probes to capture optical, audio and other data from potential human threats. Eight wheels provide roving capability while the neck and body are able to maneuver up and down by a few feet, for extra eavesdropping ability. Flaws (beyond the obvious security hazards of leaving wires exposed) include a lack of defense mechanisms for provoked human-on-robot rage and an extremely loud operating mode.

House of the Future Gadgetry

It wouldn't be a throwback to the 1950's without having house-of-the-future contraptions for completing your daily deeds. A 15-jack-input phone controls most of the household appliances and activities, from raising the blinds to rolling out the closet. Other gadgets within the modern residence range from automated kitchen appliances like toasters and coffee makers to shower starters. Tempting as they may be, we caught bugs with the alarm clock and coffee maker that still require some tinkering before we can be convinced to buy.

Ariel Waldman is a digital anthropologist and the founder of