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Unusual User Interface

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Pictured: The DataHand, an ergonomic (and funny-looking) keyboard designed to limit wrist movement.
"[The ship] won't move unless you're naked? That's very kinky, wouldn't you say?"
Aisha Clan Clan, Outlaw Star

One of the joys of reading or watching Speculative Fiction shows is the wonderfully bizarre touches an author can add, like the Unusual User Interface.

Want to make your cyborg or Ridiculously Human Robot seem truly technological? Have them plug a phone jack into their skull to browse the web, or maybe even use Augmented Reality. Maybe you'd like to wow the audience with a truly spectacular piloting system for a space ship? Have a Holographic Terminal serve as the flight controls. Or heck, maybe you just want to have the universe destroying superweapon be triggered by interpretive dance. Point is, there's more ways than a keyboard, knobs, or a steering wheel to tell a machine what to do in scifi, and here are some of those ways.

If the user plugs directly into a machine, this is the subtrope Brain/Computer Interface.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • The little hacker kid from DT Eightron doesn't use keyboards anymore; he links cables to the tip of his fingers and he types, in midair.
  • Unusual User Interfaces (as opposed to the traditional aircraft-cockpit style) for Humongous Mecha are very popular, as a means of Hand Waving the why behind giant humanoid tanks - they're an extension of the pilot's body:
    • Several Super Robot series us cockpits designed to copy the pilot's motions exactly, usually because they're super-powerful martial artists. The best-known example is Mobile Fighter G Gundam, but the originator is Daimos; GEAR Fighter Dendoh uses a similar interface, but is (initially) controlled by two people at once for added fun.
    • Mobile Suit Gundam Wing has the ZERO System, which feeds data directly into the pilot's brain and reacts to his decisions practically at speed-of-thought. Unfortunately, if you don't have immaculate focus, it drives you crazy.
    • Mobile Suit Gundam SEED cockpits aren't so much an unusual user interface as an unwieldy combination of pretty much every single common user interface, with buttons, switches, joysticks & multiple keyboards. This is probably because they were designed to be used by Designer Babies with enhanced reflexes.
    • Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn has the NT-D (New Type Destroyer) system, through combination of this, the psychoframe built into the entire mobile suits frame, and the psychowaves emitted by the pilots brain, the RX-0 Unicorn Gundam when in NT-D mode can be controlled by thought alone, however it's very taxing on the pilots mind and can only do so for 5 minutes, the real kicker is that it chooses when to activate, not at the pilots discretion.
    • Mobile Suits being controlled by thought alone isn't anything new, though how it was done was. The Quebeley Mk-II used by Puru Two and the Quin Mansa of Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ were both controlled by mental commands via a special headset. As well, the Bio-Sensor and the Psychoframe used on the Zeta Gundam, Double Zeta Gundam and Nu Gundam worked hand-in-hand with the pilot's controls, making it much more maneuverable. And, if the person was pissed off enough, much more powerful.
    • In Neon Genesis Evangelion, the Eva units are controlled with a direct neural interface with their pilots, via the LCL and the A10 nerve clips (those joysticks are just for fine manipulation and weapons control which are properly not even necessary with a high enough sync-rate). Side effects may include sympathetic pain and injuries in direct proportion to the synchro-rate, the Evas going into sudden unstoppable rampages, being a helplessly immobile and vulnerable sitting duck at very low synchro-rates, or total tangification due to a very high synchro-rate. Reasons #527, 528, and 529 why it sucks to be an Eva pilot.
      • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann appears to have a similar system in Ganmen. Simon describes it as grabbing the control sticks and the movements just come to his head... then it's never even mentioned again. Then again, Ganmen are Spiral-powered and it's entirely possible that they are controlled through the pilot's fighting spirit.
    • Martian Successor Nadesico achieves this effect with Nanomachines allowing the pilot to interface directly with the mecha. These are also the control medium for larger military vehicles and a lot of civilian equipment in the Martian colonies. For once, there are no major downsides (it's the other nanomachines you have to look out for), and it is in fact relatively easy to get the nanomachine injection if you're already in the military.
    • Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans goes into horrifying depths with how its special interface, the Alaya-Vijnana System, works. It's an interface that grows with the pilot, so it has to be put in when they are extremely young. The system can be implanted multiple times, but if it goes wrong it can paralyze the pilot and eventually kill them. To make it worse, these pilots are usually "Human Debris", a special class of "disposable" human that their employers/owners treat with little regard. And then of course there's the special case of Ein Dalton...
    • Arguably justified for Humongous Mecha that are more than what amounts to a tank on legs — the sheer complexity of controlling something with a range of movement comparable to the human body would dwarf even the most advanced planes, so either some sort of Unusual User Interface or assistance from some form of AI or advanced computer that translates inputs into situationally-appropriate actions would be all but entirely necessary. The issue that a literal tank on legs — a tank with hexapod or octopod (or even just quadruped, though that does forfeit the extra stability and redundancy provided by the extra legs) movement instead of treads — would be far more practical in most scenarios should probably be ignored.
    • Gundam Build Fighters uses strange holographic spheres for controls. The spheres seem to have weapon controls (accessed by rotation) and to some degree also have the spheres follow arm movement, so it raises the question of how the rest of the unit is supposed to controlled, especially for something like martial arts, which we do see some units performing. Conrast with Gundam Build Divers, which just goes straight for a more logical twin-joystick, twin-pedal, and HUD setup, meaning that GBN controls are not terribly far removed from a combination of Steel Battalion and a Virtual Reality headset. This is quite logical: making the controls familiar and easily adapted would be a smart move for an entertainment company wanting to sell both game-cafe and home-play units of what is essentially a Toys-to-Life MMO, something that was almost impossible with the original Gunpla Duel system from Build Fighters.
  • Batman Ninja has the Joker transported to Japan, where he has a special mecha cockpit made of viewscreens in the form of Japanese tapestries, and a console based on a shogi board. The latter represents his Chessmaster status, as he is able to hijack control of other mechs and control/combine them.
  • The Humongous Mecha in The Big O used toggle switches, joysticks, foot pedals, keyboards, and buttons.
    • In the second season, the Megadeii like Big O are shown to be sentient, and can bond with their pilots by literally jacking into their backs; if someone who's not a proper Dominus tries to use one, however, he gets eaten alive by wires, just like Alan Gabriel.
  • In Code Geass, the Japanese-made Knightmare Frames use motorcycle-style control systems, apparently to improve maneuverability (and to provide lots of shots of the female pilots bent over). In the novels, protagonist Lelouch tries using Action Girl Kallen's Guren Mk-II and discovers that it's completely beyond him.
    • The sole exception to this is Lelouch's own Mid-Season Upgrade, the Shinkirou. It has control sticks, but most of its functions are operated by keyboard and require someone as smart and quick-minded as him to operate it.
  • Cowboy Bebop has a fighter ship that drives like a motorcycle.
  • The genetically engineered Abh from Crest of the Stars have one extra sensory organ in the middle of their forehead designed to interface with the sensors of spaceships in a read-only way.
    • The flight controls of their ships consist of a small keyboard built into the right arm rest of the pilot's chair, while the left arm rests in an elaborate glove serving as a combination throttle/stick.
    • Fleet Commanders have what at first looks like a ceremonial sword or baton that they just like to swing around while giving orders to look dramatic. No, that baton is actually a communications device: depending on how it's swung, different orders can be instantly relayed to the entire fleet.
  • In Death Parade the control screen that Castra uses are boxes of color in a stained-glass formation, without any overt indicator of what bar various guests go to, and yet she directs them with precision. The skull she wears may have something to do with it.
  • The Ghost in the Shell universe pulls this to its ultimate conclusion. Anything feasible goes. In addition to the standard back-of-the-neck jacks, there's communication with computers using speech alone, eye-to-eye laser communication, the ability to read barcodes off a page of paper, wireless network connections, and the author hints about a greater variety, but claims he chose to stick mostly to jacks-in-the-head because it was easiest to represent in the manga.
  • The Manga Shakespeare version of Hamlet is set in a futuristic (if a little used) cyberpunk world. Polonius uses a Holographic Terminal that seems to be controlled by a staff of some sort, and all letters and notes delivered in the play are in the form of small capsules that plug into ports on the characters' wrists (or in Horatio's case, forehead).
  • Characters in Lyrical Nanoha normally use holographic keyboards when typing, but the Numbers in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS use holographic piano keyboards.
  • Macross has experimented with alternate controls a few times:
    • Macross Plus features a full thought-controlled fighter. This becomes a problem though: the system seems unable to distinguish between a pilot's imagination and direct mental commands. At one point, the pilot accidentally nearly totals another plane by only considering "If I were to apply downward thrust right now, that plane would be destroyed"... and his plane immediately reacts as though that was an order. This unreliability of the interface, not to mention the intense mental discipline needed by the pilot, leads to the idea being scrapped in favor of more standard controls.
    • Macross 7 features Basara's custom Valkyrie controlled by a guitar. The rest of Fire Bomber got similar fighters when Sound Force was established, as it was essential that they be able to play music and pilot at the same time.
    • Macross Frontier had VF-25 "Messiah" fighters that could be remote-controlled, at least on a basic level, by hand signals from their pilots (transmitted via the pilot's EX-Gear, a combination flightsuit/jetpack). The VF-27 Lucifer was also designed with a direct mental interface for use by cyborg pilots, although it had standard controls as well as a backup.
  • In the anime Rockman.exe (also known as Megaman NT Warrior in the West) the operators "jack in" their Navis using faux micro-USB cables. Axess exchanged these for jacking in via lasers.
  • In Outlaw Star, Melfina the android navigator, controls the ship by being suspended naked in a tank of liquid. She facilitates the ease-of-use of the ships complex systems.
  • The Novelizations of Robotech introduced the "Thinking Caps", which allowed pilots to form a mental image of what they wanted their mecha to do (while using standard controls) as a way to justify Motion-Capture Mecha. (Super Dimension Fortress Macross had nothing of the sort, though a similar concept was later introduced in Macross Plus.)
  • The character Gein from Rurouni Kenshin builds several "combat dolls" - they're basically clockwork mech suits that are controlled with the same mechanism as puppets, except from the inside.
  • In Tenchi Muyo! GXP, Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain Seiryo's (un)Cool Ship, the Unko, is controlled in combat by a giant Bingo game. The entire scurvy crew of Space Pirates sit in front of boards, and maneuvering thrusters fire when a called number is on one of the cards; they return fire whenever someone gets "Bingo". Granted, the Hat of the ship is "Good Luck", but it's definitely weird.
  • Vandread is similar to Outlaw but with a human male.

    Comic Books 
  • This trope proved to be a problem concerning Iron Man. When James "Rhodey" Rhodes took over as Iron Man, he used Tony's old red and gold armor. Soon, he began exhibiting headaches and irritation to the point where he'd fight people. Turns out Tony had calibrated his armor so that it ran on his brain patterns and, being stuck in his "demon in a bottle" rut at the time, he never realized it until it got really bad. Tony ends up donning a version of the old gray armor and fighting Rhodey so he can go in and recalibrate the armor.
  • In The Metabarons comic, the first Metabaron, Othon von Salza, manages to defeat an army of 100,000 mercenary spaceships using his super-advanced spaceship which somehow needs to be operated through his "protonic pen," a cord that plugs into his crotch.
  • Paper Girls has an iPod-like device that projects a virtual map directly into the holder's visual cortex, or so we can only assume, because only the character holding the device can see what it is displaying.
  • One of Tom Strong's many inventions is a big transparent crystal suit for exploring dangerous environments, complete with three color-coded buttons operated with the user's tongue.

    Film Animated 
  • The spaceship's core in Monsters vs. Aliens is controlled through a DDR-like dancepad. Luckily, Dr. Cockroach has a PhD in dance.

    Film Live-Action 
  • RoboCop has a four-inch (or so) data jack that protrudes out of his fist that he can plug into computers to download data. Apparently, every computer in Detroit has a port included specifically for him. We never see anyone else use the same port. It also becomes a handy Improvised Weapon in his first movie. Its fan name is the "neural spike".
  • One of the alien ships in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension had its controls set up to be operated with one's toes. Fortunately for the protagonist the gun turret controls worked by hand.
  • In Antman And The Wasp Quantumania, Hank Pym is tasked with flying the quantum-realm ship the group "acquires." He can't see any controls until his wife, Janet, tells him the gelatinous tubules that are trying to slither onto his arms are the controls.
  • The Na'vi in Avatar can interface with virtually every large animal and plant on Pandora through a sort of biological 'cable' (which is also present on said other lifeforms) due to their entire ecosystem being a sort of network, while humans back at base control their computers by touching 3D screens.
  • Implied for circa 2015 video games in Back to the Future Part II when two boys in the Cafe 80s watch Marty pull off a Crack Shot in the vintage arcade game Wild Gunman.
    Kid #1: You mean you have to use your hands?
    Kid #2: That's like a baby's toy!
    • This raises the question of how video game controls are supposed work in 2015. Computerized goggles that scan eye movements? Brain/Computer Interface?
  • In Cube Zero, the advanced programmers from upstairs use an alternate keyboard connected to their mechanical gloves to use the Cube's operating systems much more efficiently.
  • District 9 had an alien ship steered by sticking your fingers in two small pots filed with some sort of gel. Looked really fricking cool. There were also conventional touch screens, and Holographic Terminals, and screws straight into your brain.
  • In Flight of the Navigator, the boy flies the ship by placing his hands on two hemispheres, and leaning one way or another.
  • In Galaxy Quest, the aliens manage to build spaceship controls that respond correctly from the random inputs they see on the TV series. This works great for the pilot, who was very young and had invented his own ideas for all of the controls. For the engineer who was a prudish thespian and didn't care...
  • Ghostbusters II had the team turn the Statue Of Liberty into a Humongous Mecha with the help of a lot of ectoplasm...and a NES Advantage arcade joystick.
  • Johnny Mnemonic had a complex computer network that you operated with a special pair of glasses, gloves, and apparently a will-sensor, since Johnny never seems to do anything with his hands that could be interpreted as a proper control gesture.
  • Mandroid: The titular Mandroid is controlled by a neural interface helmet, and a keyboard on a treadmill.
  • Minority Report has screens that are activated by motion and touch. It also shows one of the minor drawbacks of such a technology: at one point, Tom Cruise reaches over to shake someone's hand while wearing the interface gloves, which causes all the files he's working with to collapse into a corner of the screen.
    • The interface used in Minority Report is actually becoming a kind of Truth in Television, as several technologies have developed (some inspired by the movie) that work on similar principles. One is the multitouch interface, such as Jeff Han's research and (what was originally called) Microsoft Surface. Even closer to the movie is the work being done by Johnny Chung Lee, where he emulates the interface in the movie using a Wii remote. However, the interface will never come to pass in the exact form depicted, because it breaks some obvious and crucial principles of ergonomics.
    • The innovation in the Surface was having the interface on the display; Fingerworks produced a number of multitouch interfaces integrated with keyboards and keypads several years prior, but they remained high-end curiosities; the company ceased production and was later bought out by Apple, presumably for its patents.
    • On the other hand, the "small screens as animated floppy disks" to move data from one workstation to another by physically removing them from one and inserting them into another seems strangely dated and inefficient now. Although it anticipated multitouch in some ways it failed to embrace wireless networking, which was a relatively new but easily available technology at the time the film came out.
    • A gesture-based control system for Microsoft Windows was created using custom software driving a Microsoft Kinect sensor device. Although Microsoft is reportedly considering releasing 'official' PC interface software, the Kinect interface could be considered to be a "technology demonstrator" rather than an actual product.
  • Operating the Engineers' computers in Prometheus involves playing a little flute, of all things.
  • Superman has a kryptonian computer made of crystals. Touching or rearranging the crystals makes the computer perform different functions. How he remembers these without labels is a Required Secondary Power.
  • The "Project Cobra" Peugeot 605 in Taxi 2 has speech-controlled ignition. It's started up by saying, "Ninja," and shut down by saying, "Nip." This is of course Played for Laughs from the very beginning and eventually becomes a Running Gag: The car's engine starts up and shuts down whenever someone says one of these two words.
  • In Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, the T-X calls up a modem and "speaks modem" to it on the phone to access a computer.
  • Cell phones in the Total Recall (2012) remake appear to have been replaced with a chip and several wires implanted in the hand. One can simply hold the fingers to the ear and mouth to talk or put it on any glass surface to project a visual image. As Quaid finds out, they can also be used as a tracking device, so he uses a piece of broken glass to cut his "cell phone" out.
  • In Zardoz, a large crystal set into a ring projects written data or film footage onto surfaces, as well as responding in kind to verbal commands.
  • In Zoom: Academy for Superheroes, the spaceship at Area 51 is controlled via placing one's hand in a sphere of gooey stuff.


  • Telepathy runs computers in the Culture books. Or more specifically super advanced A.I.s run the computers and neural interfaces are simply the fastest way to speak to the A.I.s. Speech, gestures, handwriting, light signalling, and basically any other method to pass information work as well or could work if you simply inform an A.I. that you wish to start using that method.
    • Plus the mental images used to control the biological implants and drug glands.
  • Karl Schroeder's Permanence has an alien starship controlled by what amounts to a full body Nintendo "Powerglove".
  • In Jeff Noon's Vurt you access the shared virtual world/alternate reality/drugstate of the Vurt by sucking differently coloured feathers.
  • An ex-military space pilot in Katherine Kerr's Polar City Blues had a (sealed over) port in her head from interfacing with the ships she flew.
  • The writings of Cordwainer Smith are set many millennia in the future, and feature bizarre user interfaces: genetically altered animals, a giant scrying dish, and much, much more. But a lead character in perhaps Smith's most famous and frightening story, Alpha Ralpha Boulevard, is a computer whose interface consists of...spitting out a piece of paper tape with a few cryptic words on it, like a fortune cookie.
  • Isaac Asimov:
    • Foundation's Edge: A new model of starship has a neural interface, which the protagonist expects will involve a helmet. Instead, the panel bears a pair of holographic hands, which appear to grip his own when he puts them together.
    • Franchise: When Mueller is being asked questions by Multivac, the questions pop out as punch card tape. The tape is then fed through another machine that converts the holes into English. Mueller's responses are written down, fed into the second machine (which spits out punch card tape), and then sent back to Multivac. While this is going on, Mueller is also hooked up to various cords that monitor his blood pressure, heartbeat, sweat, and brain-wave activity. It takes three computer programmers/engineers to operate all of this, which is merely a peripheral, not Multivac itself. Going to the bathroom is said to be uncomfortable.
  • In Dune, interstellar travel is only possible due to former humans, constantly bathed in a powerful drug, who mutate into Space Whales, predicting every possible path the ship could take and then somehow moving it themselves through space using psychic powers. While floating in midair, at least in the movies.
    • The books has engines for the moving part, but the Navigators do plot the safest course. The miniseries has a rather beautiful visual of a navigator "connecting the dots" between where the ship will travel. In the end, the user is the interface.
  • Ah, Snow Crash. Put on a pair of Cool Shades, and suddenly you're on the Street! Or build a gigantic tank for a cripple and steer it with voice commands.
  • Michael Scott's Gemini Game features the standard "big plug on the back of the neck" and headband-based videogame ports.
  • In the original Starship Troopers novel, the Mobile Infantry controls their Powered Armor by a variety of head and jaw motions, since their hands and limbs are occupied controlling the limbs of the armor. The limb controls were similar to the Mobile Fighter G Gundam Mobile Trace System mentioned above.
  • In one of the Starstormers series of young adult sf novels by Nicholas Fisk, the kids designed a weaponry interface that could be used by the ship's cat! It was essentially a variant on the traditional cat-toy of waving the shiny about and watching the cat jump at it, only the shiny was the display showing where the enemy ship was, and the cat was in a harness that transmitted its movements to the targeting systems.
    • Similarly, a short story in Cats in Space (And Other Places) had a scene with a cat defending a ship from aliens who had remotely incapacitated the human crew by leaping and batting at the screen, which the computer interpreted via telepathic interface. The series of well-intentioned mishaps that caused the ship to respect the cat's "orders" in the first place also caused the cat to receive its own paycheck. Plus danger expenses.
  • In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, radios have gone from buttons and dials to touch-sensitive panels to a system where you wave a hand in its general direction and hope. It's not the most user-friendly interface out there.
  • E.W. Hildick's Ghost Squad novels featured an inversion of this trope. One of the main characters regularly used a word processor (with a regular keyboard) that he built himself. The inversion is that the protagonists were ghosts of young people, and they were severely limited in how they could interact with the physical world. The electronics whiz's affinity for his creation gave them a way to communicate with the living.
  • In Memory Prime, a Star Trek novel by Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens, Spock interfaces directly with a network of sentient computers by shoving the wire leads through the tips of his fingers so that they make contact with his nervous system. In effect, he's mind-melding with the internet. Others melded with that network on a regular basis; they had fingernail implants that played nicely with the sockets Spock jammed his hands into.
  • In the Wing Commander novel False Colors, Jason "Bear" Bondarevski is offered, by a Kilrathi assisting the UBW forces, the option of wiring his cybernetic arm (replacement for an injury from the novelization of WC3, where he was commanding one of the destroyers escorting the TCS Victory that you occasionally escorted) so he can directly interface with his fighter, instead of the more conventional airplane-type interface. He declines the offer.
  • In Timothy Zahn's The Conquerors Trilogy, the Copperheads were controlled through a jack in the back of the heads of the pilot and tail gunner, with the interface basically mapping the fighter's functions to a virtual human body. Damage is represented by smell and colour (the obvious choice of pain presumably being too distracting), weapons by the user's fists, and so forth
  • Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency: The Regius Professor of Chronology uses an abacus to control his Time Machine. Since it's mentioned that literally anything placed in that particular spot will become the control system, this is actually one of the less bizarre options.
  • Neuromancer practically invented this trope, especially as regards the Cyberpunk genre.
  • Vernor Vinge's "True Names" and K.W. Jeter's Doctor Adder predated Neuromancer.
  • Tad Williams's Otherland trilogy describes a tremendous variety of methods used to interface with virtual reality environments: a plain old flat screen, 3D goggles (both with "squeezers" for input), a mechanical framework that you strap into, full-body immersion in a pressure-sensitive gel, and for the rich, a direct neural implant. Within the 'Net, a combination of hand gestures and speech form the "programming" language. And some users go so far as to have custom interfaces designed for them, whether out of personal idiosyncrasies or impatience.
  • In Scott Westerfeld's Uglies series, the Specials have this, as well as in the fourth book, Extras. In Extras, everyone has these.
  • In Skinned by Robin Wasserman, this is available to the general public, but most people don't have it.
  • Head jacks and neural splices in Lauren P. Burka's short stories "Mate" and "Whip-Hand".
  • In Sergey Lukyanenko's novels The Stars Are Cold Toys and Star Shadow, the Geometer's ships can be controlled with a variety of methods, including speaking to the ship's AI, thinking to it, or simply putting your hands into containers filled with a gelatinous liquid called the "colloid actuator", which allows for a "meld" between the pilot and the craft.
    • Also, in Lukyanenko's Line of Delirium trilogy, certain Powered Armor systems are controlled by the chin. Try doing that in the middle of a firefight.
    • Yet another of Lukyanenko's trilogies, Genome has ships controlled using a VR interface. It's noted that every ship has standard manual controls, but those are included mostly due to tradition than any real need in case of emergency. VR control is much faster and more efficient. The Captain can see and interact with any plugged-in crew member, seeing them as an avatar of sorts based on their personality.
  • Samuel R. Delany's Nova, published in 1968, featured a technology in which people had neural wrist- and neck-plugs installed so that they could control a wide variety of gadgets, from vacuum cleaners to starships. This style of interface was so pervasive that individuals who did not want to receive the implants were effectively unable to use any remotely sophisticated equipment.
  • In "The Rim of Space" by A. Bertram Chandler, the navigator of the ship the Lorn Lady controls it via a telepathic link to a dog brain wired into the ship's computer. In its down time, he rewards it with telepathic visions of trees and fire hydrants.
  • While the New Kashubia Series uses Cyberspace to pilot its weapons platforms they need cybernetics to access it, however what makes this unusual is that that part was thrown in at the last minute since everything else was already there tech-wise. Later the hero gets a Cool Chair so he also doesn't need to strip and float around in a goo pool.
  • A number of brain implants exist in The History of the Galaxy series. The most common one is a simple chip implanted at birth, which allows one to control household appliances and computers. It only interprets basic wishes/commands. Cybreakers and mnemonics have up to 7 implants that can be used to break into any system, including the aforementioned simple implants, mind-raping people and frying their brains. Oh, and don't bother threatening them with any modern gun, as all of those have electronic systems that can be jammed or overloaded. A group of genetically-engineered people have an organ at the base of the skull that emits and receives infrared signals, allowing interface with any device that has an IR port. Apparently, in the future, it's every system. A girl accidentally enters VR with this organ by looking at a screen and enjoying the view of the landscape.
  • Ghostweight by Yoon Ha Lee is set in an interstellar empire with a strong Asiatic influence. The protagonist steals an abandoned mercenary spacecraft that communicates with her via Animal Motifs formed on tapestries displayed around the walls.
  • In Orson Scott Card's Earth Unaware, Asteroid Miners control their space suit systems with their eyes. Specifically, a HUD is projected on the inner visor, and the helmet tracks the wearer's eye movements. Blinking is equivalent to clicking. One imagines that eyes can get pretty tired after selecting a complex sequence of options.
  • In Venus Prime, Sparta is able to interface with computers using pin spines under her fingernails. The data apparently manifests itself in the form of smells and tastes.
  • Lilith's Brood: The alien Oankali can interface with any of their Organic Technology by touch, thanks to the same sensory filaments that let them perform microsurgery and genetic modification on living organisms through skin-to-skin contact. Allied humans need to be modified so they can do such minor things as signal a door to open, and are unable to use the technology in more sophisticated ways.
  • The control panel used by the time-machine hacker in the Doctor Who Missing Adventures novel The Crystal Bucephalus is a device that looks like a harp with beams of light instead of strings. "Playing" it lets you manipulate 4-dimensional mathematics. The novel is set far enough in the future that another temporal scientist considers it an antique.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Andromeda:
    • Mr. Fixit Seamus Harper had a dataport in the side of his neck, which allowed him to plug into, and interface with computer systems.
    • The ship itself was composed of a series of coloured chips that would be rearranged. There also was the super expensive "Serial Quantum Chips" that where coloured chips shaped like a double helix.
  • Babylon 5:
    • The Liandra from Babylon 5: The Legend of the Rangers has a gesture-based weapon system, where the gunner floats in a virtual reality representation of the environment around the ship, and punches and kicks enemy vessels to fire at them. (Yes, this is as silly as it sounds. Made worse by the sound effects, which made it seem like the gunner was making pew-pew sounds.)
    • The White Star has very odd main controls in its early versions, although as it gets redesigned the controls become more normal. Even in the earliest version, though, there are some fairly ordinary control panels.
    • Sharlin class cruisers (otherwise known as Minbari War Cruisers) appeared to be commanded verbally. This is a very odd choice for a warship.
  • Cylons in Battlestar Galactica have two for the price of one. They can plug fiberoptic cable into their forearm to interface with computers (but they have to make an incision first) and they can interface with their own ships by putting their hands in a stream of water called the "datastream". The latter might be either electrical or biochemical transmitters, it's unclear but it sure looks cool! It helps that they're Artificial Humans. Humans also seem to interface well enough whenever putting their hands in this cylon liquid. But perhaps this is facilitated by the hybrids always present in the bathtub in those instances.
  • Willow freaks out her friends by accessing a computer database via touch (and magic) in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Smashed".
  • In Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, Carl Sagan controlled his dandelion-seed-shaped "Spaceship of the Imagination" by waving his hands over a control panel embedded with quartz crystals with colored lights shining through them.
    • Done away with in the sequel with Neil deGrasse Tyson, he is never seen giving any orders to the ship which seems to just do whatever he wants it to do at the moment.
  • In often-overlooked 90s sci-fi show Crime Traveller, the hero time machine looks like a mass of mismatched electronic junk and is controlled through typical buttons, switches, and levers; but in the last episode the villain-of-the-week turns out to have their own much more advanced time machine, with a very minimalist design and large rubber breast implants for controls.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The interfaces on the alien technology in "The War Games" look and act a lot like oddly-shaped fridge magnets. (But then, you could say that Doctor Who itself is a fridge magnet, but that's another trope.)
    • In "Day of the Daleks", the Controller's Bridge Bunnies are always waving their hands vaguely over their consoles, implying some kind of motion-activated control system.
    • In ''Terror of the Zygons'' the organic Zygon technology is controlled by... fondling fleshy mushroom-shaped growths that make up their control panels.
    • Gallifreyan technology in "The Invasion of Time" and (to an extent) "Arc of Infinity" seems to involve picking up undersized billiard balls of various colors and then putting them back down. The TARDIS itself seems to have sometimes had a version of this type of interface, particularly in the interior used between 2005 and 2010, consisting of multiple glass and metal spheres on the console. These even appeared in some of the 9th Doctor's publicity photos.
    • "The Long Game" had people installing ports in their foreheads.
    • "The Doctor's Wife": The TARDIS' internal doors are password locked. To unlock them you don't speak the words, you have to think about their meaning. So when Amy Pond needs to convey the word "delight" she thinks about her wedding day.
    • "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS" has the liquid Encyclopedia Gallifreya, bottles containing purple fluid that could be heard speaking when opened.
    • In the episode "The Day of the Doctor", a sentient weapon called The Moment has an interface that manifests as someone from the user's life. But due to this being Time Lord technology, the person can be from the user's past, present or future. In the case of the War Doctor, it chooses to look like his future companion Rose Tyler.
      (The Doctor goes to examine the Moment only to yank his hands away)
      Doctor: Ow!
      Moment-Rose: What's wrong?
      Doctor: The interface is hot!
      Moment-Rose: (smirk) Well, I do my best.
      Doctor: There's a power source inside... (the penny drops and he turns to look at her) You're the interface?
  • Taelon shuttles in Earth: Final Conflict are piloted using a gesture based system, including a bow-and-arrow like move for firing the weapons. Similarly...
  • Farscape:
    • Moya's controls are... empty grating. Seriously, look at the control panels, they're just empty spaces in metal frames with lights underneath. Pilot controlled all of Moya herself with a just a dozen huge buttons, but as his nervous system is wired directly into Moya's he doesn't necessarily need physical controls (and the time we see his neural connection severed he still retains verbal control). Of course, since Moya is alive, it's sometimes less a case of Pilot controls the ship and more a case of he negotiates with her. Frequently Pilot's role is to talk Moya out of something she wants to do, or in to something she doesn't. Averted with the manual controls on the command deck, which feature a conventional joystick and displays for use by humanoid crew.
    • Moya's son Talyn is genetically engineered to not require a Pilot; instead a humanoid crew member is implanted on the back of the neck with cybernetics that let him control Talyn's systems directly... if Talyn allows it. Like Moya, Talyn can also take voice commands and has manual controls.
  • In Hyperdrive, ships are piloted by cyborg "Enhanced Humans". This seems to involve dancing in an alcove full of coloured lights. The plot of the first episode comes about, in part, because two bored bridge crew members try to come up with a sequence of manoeuvres that will make the cyborg fall out of her alcove.
  • In Jake 2.0, Jake has nanites that allow him to control computers with his brain. Interestingly, he doesn't get any feedback from this interface, so if he hacks a computer, he still needs to look at it in order to read the information.
  • In Land of the Lost (1974), pylons were controlled by arranging different colors of crystal on a glowing grid at the top of a stone pedestal. This was made insanely difficult by the sheer number of possible combinations of colors, as well as the tendency of crystals to blow up, get hot, generate force fields, or whatever if they actually came into contact with one another. (But then, if it was easy to operate the portal-opening pylon, the Marshalls could've just camped out inside it for a few days until they triggered a portal leading home.)
  • Power Rangers:
    • Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: Tommy remote controls the Dragonzord by playing notes on his Dragon Dagger, which other characters call a "flute" (even though it sounds like a trumpet). He only ever uses two note sequences for all of the various things this mech can do. (The Dragonzord did have a cockpit, which he used a grand total of once.)
    • Power Rangers Wild Force: Zen-Aku also has musically-controlled Zords.
    • Dr. K of Power Rangers RPM can control the entire lab via her violin.
    • Some of the Megazords seem to be directed by the Rangers waving their hands over [insert cool object here].
    • One incredibly unintuitive system used in Power Rangers Mystic Force had the Rangers sitting in little pods on a checkered surface, and directing the Megazord by way of chess moves. In the heat of battle.
  • SeaQuest DSV has the HR (Hyper Reality) Probe, a vaguely crab-like ROV that the ship's engineer can operate by means of a VR headset and haptic gloves.
  • In Space: Above and Beyond, the marines capture an alien bomber. When examining it's potential for use as a Trojan horse they discover that the ship is in part operated by interacting with holes in the wall filled with sticky goo. "Think anything goes in there? Pray it's only the arms."
  • Stargate-verse:
    • Stargate SG-1:
      • Human-form replicators can interface with technology (particularly Earth computers) by sticking a body part, usually a hand, directly into the machine. Apparently this also works on humans, as the human-form replicators can literally get inside their victim's heads (though it is not exactly painless for the victim).
      • Goa'uld ships are usually controlled by sticking your hands on a pair of big red orb-things and... then somehow you can drive the ship without doing anything else that's visible. Presumably it's a telepathic interface or something.
    • In Stargate Atlantis a lot of Ancient and Wraith technology is operated by thinking at it. Or in the case of the Asgard, moving identical rocks around to different, unlabeled circles on a panel. (Maybe just bad interface.)
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation: Data was regularly plugging himself into various bits of the ship. Once they even attached just his head after his body was damaged and they had to leave it behind. The Starship Enterprise was saved by Data's disembodied head.
    • Lt. Barclay's interface with Enterprise's computer on the holodeck in "Nth Degree." As the episode progresses, it becomes less and less clear to what extent Barclay is interfacing with the computer, and to what extent he is the computer.
    • In their initial appearance, Borg drones use their alcoves to plug themselves into the Borg collective consciousness—to the extent that when using them, drones don't register as individual life forms to sensors. This is downplayed in subsequent episodes where drones are depicted as being fully connected to the Collective at all times.
    • A Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode ("The Visitor") has characters decades in the future having trouble adapting to the Defiant's now-antiquated interface, being used to a three-dimensional projection. Appropriately enough we go on to see an evolved 3D holographic version of the LCARS interface in use in Star Trek: Picard, which takes place about thirty years after the TNG/DS9/VOY era but about twenty years before these specific scenes in "The Visitor".
    • DS9 also explores how a Jem'Hadar starship is piloted. Notably, they do not feature main viewscreens. The officers need to wear a visor that's hooked directly into the ship's sensors, "like having a viewscreen in your mind". In the earliest appearances these were cumbersome shoulder-mounted armatures, which were swiftly replaced by a head-mounted device that covered one eye. Humans seem to develop headaches, nausea and vertigo after using them for longer than a couple minutes, but Cardassians are less susceptible.
    • One episode featured a guest character with a data port behind her ear, which she could use to bypass security systems. The dialogue made it sound as though they were relatively freely available but often very expensive (unless you want the cheap tech directly connected to your brain). It shows up again in a later episode on a minor criminal character. In both cases, the interfaces are very useful for getting into secure systems and data, but the drawbacks include nasty physical pain from security features designed to counter just such breaches, to the point where the users risked permanent damage, paralysis, or even death. Its implied the combination of their use for breaching security barriers and the associated dangers are the main reason that such implants are mostly used by criminals (and thus have a stigma attached to them)
    • In the Star Trek: Voyager finale, Janeway returns from decades in the future to change the present, and she is implanted with a standard issue neural computer interface from the future.
    • There's another episode where Tom Paris gets too close to an alien shuttle with a neural interface.
    • The Hirogen ships' interface works looks like sticking metal toothpicks into a gigantic sphere.
    • The Borg can also do this with their assimilation tubules, and though it's rarely shown it also apparently works on non-Borg technology. The tubes can inject nanoprobes into anything which then, presumably, infect and reprogram the target system in much the same way as they do with a biological organism.
  • In Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, a first-season episode shows that John Connor is capable of connecting an advanced robot CPU chip into his computer (via a hot-swap SATA drive dock, no less) to read the memory files stored on the chip. He takes this one step farther when he uses the CPU chip of "good" Terminator Cameron to access the traffic mainframe of downtown Los Angeles in order to upload a virus to Skynet's "proto" nervous system. Given the fact that these chips are installed on machines being sent back in time, it actually makes sense that they would be built to be backwards compatible, if they were designed to interface with older systems.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The 'mechs from BattleTech are controlled by a combination of manual controls, like joysticks and pedals for targeting and gross movement, and and a neurological link with the mech to provide more precise control and to a sense of balance. The neurolink is one of the few non-invasive types; instead of cutting into people's brains and adding datajacks, it's just a helmet that presses on a few spots where it can connect to the nervous system. This doesn't require anything more invasive than the pilot keeping those spots free of hair, and calibrating the helmets when fitting a new mechwarrior.
    • The novels based on the tabletop game give the Clan Elementals another system to make up for the lack of buttons to push. Their weapons fire when they put their hands in certain positions, and they turn things on and off by the "glance system," where their viewport has a series of icons above and below it. To activate the icon, the Elemental just looks at it for a moment. They also apparently use modified versions of the neurolinking systems.
    • Less advanced power-armor units have to make do with more manual systems. At least one book mentions a unit that uses tongue controls for certain functions. One hopes they sanitize those helmets...
    • BattleTech does have invasive cybernetic control systems however. That being said, said systems are every rare, cutting edge technology. They also have a tendency to drive the user insane after a few years, if not kill them out right, though the individuals who are willing to voluntarily undergo the surgeries necessary to have the systems installed are generally noted as not being terribly balanced to begin with.
  • CthulhuTech: Engels. see Neon Genesis Evangelion above, without the synchronization, but with more invasive surgery and SAN checks.
  • The "multisensory holographic work station" from GURPS: Ultra-Tech can be set to communicate with the user by using holograms, ultrasonics, infrared light, ultraviolet light and smells.
  • Shadowrun and nearly every work of Cyberpunk has the datajack, a port or wire usually somewhere on the side of the head to hook up to a computer. A cyberpunk character who can't "jack in" with a port in their head is not trying hard enough.
    • Later games, however, have caught up with WiFi and made wireless the prime mode of interaction with the Internet. People still have ports in their head that connect to the web, they just don't require the cables.
    • Don't forget the Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality interfaces, which can look like anything the user wants it to. A Node's Operating system could very well just look like a library, with each book representing a program. There's no limiting the weirdness.
  • More advanced Warhammer 40,000 vehicles and war machines are often plugged directly into the pilot's brain. In a rather low-tech way.
    • The control systems of Titans includes a system that the command crew are linked to by wires that enter the brain through the edges of the eye socket. The primary pilot, the Princeps, is often hardwired into the Titan for greater control. Chaos Titans take this a step further, as the whole crew is often fused with the Titan and gains greater sentience. Being attached to a Titan will always lead to a loss of self for the Princeps if they are not killed first.
    • To pilot a Dreadnought, you have to be pretty close to dead, and have had to have done something pretty epic just prior, or have been in a very good standing within the force to justify being placed in one. The Dreadnought is equal parts Walking Tank and life support for the pilot. For the Loyalist Marines, this is seen as one of the greatest privileges that they can achieve. For different reasons, the Chaos Marines see being in a dreadnought as something that is less than pleasant.
    • Ork Killa Kanz and Deff Dreddz are just like dreadnoughts, except for being ramshackle and "orkier" in design, the pilots are all volunteer, and they are permanently hardwired into the machine (whereas dreanought pilots' sarcophagi can be removed from the dreadnought when they're not in use). Gretchen tend to take a liking to piloting the Kan, while Orks tend to resent the day-to-day existence inside of a Deff Dredd (having to eat meals through a mechanical straw, for example), but they tend to forget their qualms when they're shredding though power armored infantry like butter.
    • Many techpriests connect to computer systems in this manner. Not to mention all the prayers, chanting and burning of incense that accompanies any machine/user interface in Warhammer 40K, which certainly is 'unusual', if not exactly in the manner described by the trope.
    • Techpriests can also attempt to "appease the machine spirit," a sort of innate A.I./machine soul, by using unguents, oils, and the aforementioned incense. How effective (or logical) this is is often minimal, but sometimes the machine (in ten or twelve pieces with half of its programming deleted) will get up and KILL STUFF to the best of its abilities.
    • They also have the noosphere, an augmented reality bionic eye that can let you see data and boosts your programming skills tenfold simply by warrant of being able to use your hands and mind to do so.
    • The Eldar have a slightly much cleaner version of this whereby technology is controlled by psychic manipulation. Also worth noting are the Wraithlords and Wraithguard, war "golems" that are controlled directly by a deceased Eldar soul embedded in the machine.
    • The Sisters of Battle may have the best, though. The Exorcist tank is a missile launch platform that looks a lot like an organ. The missiles are launched by a Battle Sister in front of a keyboard, playing devotional music that also causes explosions. The unit also features one of the more outrageous walker units, the Penitent Engine. Much like a Dreadnought, the Penitent Engine is controlled by a living user. Unlike a Dreadnought, a Penitent Engine pilot is fully alive, conscious, and unarmored; they are essentially a big, nasty suicide unit. They are also hardwired to the engine in a way that is sometimes described as "crucifixion." The only way out for them is death, which is actually fairly standard for WH40k.
    • Other examples that fit the trope are the Dark Eldar Talos, which is actually run by an autonomous AI, but has a tortured slave inside powering the Talos with his agony. The aforementioned Eldar Wraithguard and Wraithlords, of course. The Defiler which is a Walking Tank possessed by a daemon, and the Soulgrinder takes the defiler up a step by including a waist-up daemon mounted onto the machine's legs.
    • Let's not forget the always fun and exciting passages through the warp. The Navigator, a human mutant who has a third eye capable of seeing in the warp, sits in a chair that he is literally wired into (including a tube that deposits saline capsules into his mouth to prevent him from dehydrating), which is then raised into a transparent hemisphere on the surface of the ship, where he pilots the vessel as it travels through hell. The only navigational landmark for him to use is the Astronomican, and eldritch horrors that would drive a normal person insane constantly gnash and throw themselves at the vessel, kept at bay only the Gellar Field which the ship generates for (relative) safe passage through the warp. The results of a ship's Gellar Field failing are, to put it lightly, rather unpleasant.

    Video Games 
  • For the NES in general, there's the Robotic Operating Buddy. While playing one of his games, you would hit Select to switch controls to influence R.O.B. rather than your character, and then hit a second controller button to transmit a direction for him to follow, which involved moving his arms vertically, rotating them horizontally, or opening/closing his hands to manipulate other real-world objects situated around him.
  • On that note, many Digital Pinball Tables have you run a space or fantasy adventure by using a set of flippers to launch a metal marble into pins and through gates, instead of selecting moves through direct button pushes or menus.
  • Deus Ex
    • There are mentions of an occipitalnote  jack in one in game news article and an in game email. Based on the context of the news article (The fact that a teenage girl has one is mentioned alongside having a tattoo and wearing black) these are looked upon negatively.
    • Denton himself can usually be considered an Unusual User Interface all by himself, since Icarus eventually manages to hack his brain, and he can do this with his nanotechnology that just doesn't make sense in a real-world equivalency.
    • In Mankind Divided, the Neural SubNet allows hackers called Rippers to render secure networks they are breaking into as virtual reality environments, complete with network security measures being anthropomorphized as guards or rendered identical to physical security measures in the "real world" like laser tripwires. Users can use the Neural SubNet to chat in virtual reality as well.
  • Donkey Kong Jungle Beat. You make a gorilla jump, swing, grab fruit and headbutt giant bird eggs by beating on a pair of bongos and clapping your hands.
  • The controls for playing The World always involve a PlayStation controller, a keyboard, and a headset, the latter being the unusual part. It simulates a three-dimensional environment in the game (from the view point of the character, maybe) and three dimensional sound and responds to both head and eye movement. It also operates neurally, though the degree is unspoken as it isn't made a big deal until The World R:2. A fair guess is that most people playing the game assume their character's gestures are procedurally generated. The real kicker, for series fans, is that the neural aspect does not factor into the cause of the coma victims/Lost Ones at all.
  • Pretty much the entire point of Dystopia, a Half-Life 2 mod. The players can jack into a 3D interpretation of a computer by mentally connecting to the computer through the cyberdeck in their heads. Of course, since they are putting their own minds inside the machine, they leave their real bodies vulnerable to attack.
  • Final Fantasy X-2's Big Bad has a buglike Humongous Mecha called Vegnagun, and like its name would suggest, it had a BFG built into its mouth. Now how do you suspect something like that would be controlled? Why, with a gigantic pipe organ, of course!
  • In Halo, while most Forerunner devices are activated via Holographic Terminals, the terminals seen in Halo Wars and Halo Legends are activated by touching a big sphere covered in glyphs. It's interesting to note that, since humans are Reclaimers and the technology is destined for them, the spheres will self-trigger and align themselves when touched by a human.
  • In Hypnospace Outlaw, Hypnospace is accessed via a Brain/Computer Interface in the form of a headband that is worn while the user is asleep. The headband uses lasers to directly interface the brain with Hypnospace, a method that isn't particularly safe: at best, it keeps you in REM sleep longer than is recommended, but at worst, it can fry your brain.
  • Mass Effect
    • The codex explains that the holographic interfaces are not hard light, but rather simply holographic projections. Instead, the person using the interface has "haptic interfaces" installed in special gloves, or has implants that serve the same purpose installed in their fingers if they use such interfaces frequently. In addition to connecting to the computer to track the user's movements for the purposes of input, the interface also provides the sensation of tactile feedback: the user can "feel" the keys they're pushing, even though they aren't there.
    • Inverted for Javik in Mass Effect 3. Ordinary user interfaces are strange and confusing to him, as well as inefficient (Intercoms? Typing out words by hand? Primitives!) He instead prefers to communicate through direct knowledge transference via touch, and controlling systems through some kind of water-based interface.
    • When Shepard enters the Geth Consensus to eliminate the Reaper Code infecting the network, the debugging tool is represented in the virtual world by a large energy weapon. Legion explains this is because the Geth felt Shepard would find this type of interface the most familiar. For their part, Shepard takes this as a backhanded compliment.
  • The massive Gundam-esque "Combots" in Metal Fatigue used an unusual hybrid of conventional controls and what appeared to be a kind of motion-capture pedestal. They were crewed by two to five individuals, one of whom acted as the main 'pilot' by standing on the pedestal, their movements being converted to movements taken by the combot itself (in one cutscene, a pilot holds a hand to the side of his head whilst using a communications link - the combot is shown mimicking the movement. Considering they have large weapons attached to these arms, one hopes they don't get an urge to scratch themselves too often...) and the rest operate generic looking consoles.
  • In the Apparatus table of Pinball Deluxe, playing pinball is the only known way to operate the titular machine, a Black Box of unknown origin.
  • Ripper: Any computer - even those with Apple Lisa-style cases in 2040, can give a user access to cyberspace through a special pad that a person simply places their hands to, to log on.
  • Scorn, being inspired by the works of H.R. Geiger and Zdzisław Beksiński, is absolutely full of these. Case in point, one variant of control panel requires that the user insert one arm into a fleshy gauntlet while the other extends an Arm Blade of sorts and jacks into a port next to said gauntlet.
  • Sigma Star Saga has the aliens interface with their techno-organic spaceships via the full-body parasites that they wear. The parasite-ship connection is such that a patrolling ship can instantly teleport the nearest parasite-wearing person into their hull in order to take command.
  • In Splatoon and Splatoon 2, the Final Boss rides a bizarre Humongous Mecha that he controls via turntables scratched with wasabi roots. A very appropriate weapon for someone called DJ Octavio.
  • Sprint Vector: Mr. Entertainment's computer uses a touch screen and holographic keyboard, both of which he can operate with his butt.
  • In Sword of the Stars, Morrigi curl around control pillars to run their spacecraft.


    Web Original 
  • According to the StarCraft wiki, the Terran Goliath is controlled with the pilot being strapped into a sort of cradle that transmits his/her movements to the mech's computer to imitate them.
  • In Nebula-75, a Couple of thieves have a Space Ship, whose navigation system is literally the handle bars of a Motorcycle, as well as said ship using a normal looking ignition key!
  • Starwalker: While controls exist some people have cerebral implants to access computers and holograms are used by the computer to display information (and as an aid to input).
  • We Are Our Avatars: During the investigation of a submarine in the world of 3E, Marcia speculates that it might be controlled by an arcade machine. Turns out she was right, and the thing is even powered by quarters.
  • In the Whateley Universe, more than one deviser goes with the datajack. Techno-Devil has a shaved mullet, with an exposed datajack on each side of his head. Jericho has one as well. Merry doesn't even need that much (she just has to be near a fast CPU hooked up to the internet, and her mind can literally dive into cyberspace). Since that is in fact her mutant power it may be debatable if it fully counts for this trope, but it's the closest thing to the 'cyberspace experience' depicted in the various stories so far.
    • For another example of 'unusual interface', Samantha Everheart used to have the nanotech-based AI known as 'Hive' in her body until very recently (nowadays it's more like it is her body). For the most part, the two would just 'talk' to each other in her head, but every so often there was sensory feedback. And yes, the nanites in turn could interface with other communication and computer systems.

    Western Animation 
  • In the DuckTales (1987) episode "Where No Duck Has Gone Before", the steering mechanism for the Kronk ship looks like a glowing ball. The pilot drives the ship by manuevering his hands around it.
  • The pilots in Exo Squad control their E-Frames with cyberjacks mounted at the base of their skulls, although they're also shown using an optical targeting system - the crosshairs follow the movement of the pilot's eye, and they "pull the trigger" basically by winking.
  • A Futurama episode that parodied Minority Report also spoofed their version of this trope. Fry joins the New New York Police and ends up in the Future Crimes department, where the main computer is a giant holographic interface manipulated by hand motions. While reviewing some footage, he zooms in by making a binoculars gesture in front of his face, and rewinds the footage by performing the Cabbage Patch.
  • Megas XLR is a Humongous Mecha sent from the future with an advanced alien interface. When Coop bought it from a junkyard, he modified it to be piloted from a 1970s Plymouth Barracuda with a heavily modified dashboard. What do you do if you want to go faster? You step on the gas. Need to know how much energy is still available? Check the fuel gauge. Want to fire a more powerful laser? Turn on the high beams. Diving in molten magma? Turn on the A/C.
    • In addition to the steering and pedals, the car-robot came equipped with no less than seven video game controllers: the Atari joystick, the NES controller, Genesis, SNES, PlayStation, a DanceDanceRevolution pad, and just for good times, a microphone. Alongside that, buttons that changed function as the plot required ("Missiles," "More Missiles," "All Da Missiles!," "5 Minutes Until End Of Episode," and "Exactly the same button Coop just used like five minutes ago"), and you've got a car that only Coop can drive (Kiva failed miserably the one time she tried).
    • Then there's the manual override, which consists of dancing. Though in that case, it doesn't allow weapons systems to be utilized and Coup is so out of shape that it's only useful for short fights.
    • Megas' back seat has a holographic control panel with display in the back seat, that Kiva only knows how to use. It seemingly activates if you motion like you're typing.
  • In South Park, Mr. Garrison's wheel car invention.... It consists of a single, large wheel that you can drive by sitting on a phallic "seat" (ouch) in the wheel, and you maneuver and control it by sucking on a phallic object while you shift the two phallic levers below it up and down... penis. At least one person complains about the uncomfortable interface but admits that it's still less painful than dealing with the airlines. All of this was completely unnecessary and specifically added by Mr. Garrison.
  • In Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Umbaran fighters and other vehicles are controlled entirely through hand motions in a Holographic Terminal bubble cockpit, making it very hard to fly without training or experience.
  • In Steven Universe, most larger Homeworld spaceships are shaped like human body parts, and are controlled by their pilots through motion-capture of those body parts. Pink Diamond's leg-ship has what can only be described as a runway on the bridge, and requires its pilot to take a running leap to get into orbit. Peridot's hand-ship was controlled by a panel of light that its pilot could merge their own Hard Light body with to control it. Oddly, the Roaming Eye used by the Ruby Squad just has a touchscreen and few buttons on consoles.
  • Transformers use keyboards. Why is that an Unusual User Interface? Because Transformers are robots who have been repeatedly shown to be able to interface with a computer by just plugging into it. You'd think it would be their favorite mode of computer control... But no. Of course, as touched on in the Ghost in the Shell entry above, directly interfacing with a computer that has a virus or other security issue could have unpleasant and potentially hazardous consequences.
    • In Transformers: Animated, Soundwave uses Ratbat, a keytar (that turns into a bat) to reprogram the captured Autobots. It seems to take a while; he ends up standing around in the sewer for a while rocking out.
    • In Beast Wars, some of the transformers had keyboards inserted into their forearms that sort of met halfway between the two methods (it actually superficially resembled the use of the small keypad on the infamous Power Glove). In Beast Machines, Megatron had a special throne interface complete with Helmet and Hover-Chair that was connected to the planet's networks through ceiling cords.

    Real Life 
  • Text messaging, specifically on phones that don't have keyboards like early cell phones and contemporary low-end phones. Unless u cn typ in txtspk, you use a twelve-button telephone keypad and a predictive writing system to type out complicated sentences telling your friends what club you're at or who Brittany and Amber are hooking up with. Over time, texting became less of a chore as phones with a full, albeit miniaturized keyboard became available (though the design remained niche), and eventually phones with touchscreens became the norm.
  • The WWII German Navy (Kriegsmarine) naval gunnery firing keys. Instead of the pistol grip firing key favored by USN and RN fire control systems, the Kriegsmarine used a mouthpiece where the fire control officer blew when he wanted to fire the guns. A pneumatic pressure switch then closed the firing circuit and sent the firing impulse to the guns. In heavy weather a conventional button-type firing key was used as a backup system. Similar system was used also in the Finnish Navy in the WWII.
  • Before the debut of the Nintendo 64, there were jokes being passed around that the controller was in fact a glob of jelly that could read the electrical impulses from your brain through your fingertips. Though the actual controller was nowhere near as strange, it did offer then-unusual but innovative features like an analog stick and rumble feedback that later became standard across the industry.
  • Gotcha had breast-shaped controllers in 1973.
  • Mechanisms facilitating telephone usage by the deaf or computer usage by the blind.
  • 3D mice used for CAD applications. Also, any positioning device integrated in a laptop will be quite unusual until you get used to it.
    • For the first twenty years after its invention, the regular mouse qualified.
    • Graphics tablets probably also qualify, especially as you have to relearn some hand-eye coordination in order to use them. Of course, the point of them is that they provide a control method that is more like pen and paper, and is much more natural and intuitive for photo-editing/digital illustration.
  • A man got a USB memory drive installed in his artificial finger.
  • Various 'unusual' interfaces exist the allow people with disabilities to interface with computers, or their wheel chairs, or other people. The most unusual of all would probably have to be a tube in the mouth manipulated by the tongue.
    • MouseTrap by Flavio Percoco Premoli. It's a motion-tracking software allowing to use a webcam tracking head movement instead of a mouse. Gnome version is in Linux distributions for years, and there are clones.
  • A number of different Brain-computer interfaces have actually been developed for the disabled and gaming. Hasbro's Force trainer is one of the latter. Most commercial versions are non-invasive and actually read subtle changes in your scalp rather than actual brainwaves.
    • Feh, Atari did it in the 70's with Mindlink.
    • Neurosky has working tech to read the basic brain wave state (relaxed or focussed, basically). There has been a succession of SDKs and games over the years, but the most successful by a very long shot has been the Necomimi which are a pair of cat ears that move.
  • The DataHand keyboard, currently providing the page image.
    • This device was so unusual and exotic, it was used as the pilot's controls for the "ship" in the movie Contact.
  • The Kinect motion controller for the Xbox 360 was hacked within days of its release to allow it to be used as a multitouch interface with PCs, including Apple and Linux machines.
  • The PlayStation Move is a close relative of the Wiimote.
  • The peregrine probably counts.
  • Everyone has their own preference for control, and if you are accustomed to using a mouse but sit down at someone's computer that has the touchpad or a trackball can be confusing.
  • The Theremin. See the Other Wiki if you don't know what one is.
  • The Hydraulophone is a musical instrument played by directing the flow of water.
  • The Laser Harp. Basically a kind of big upright "master keyboard" that consists of Frickin' Laser Beams. Notes are played by (depending on the kind of harp) interrupting or reflecting the beams with your hands. The use of fireproof gloves is at least recommended.
  • To be correct, the entire computer history fits perfectly. Let's look.
    • The first revolution was command mode: a computer answered with typing machine to requests, typed with keyboard. Before this most interaction was done using punched cards
    • The second revolution was computer terminals: a keyboard and a screen with block of text and pseudographics.
    • The third revolution was GUI using a mouse.
    • Now, the fourth revolution is in making: small touch screens have become more widespread, although they do not replace the mouse-and-keyboard pair in larger devices such as laptops and PCs due to inconvenient ergonomics.
  • The AH64 Apache gunship. Ed Macy, a British Apache pilot who operated in Afghanistan, explained in his book Apache that flying the gunship is like (paraphrased) trying to play an Xbox, and PlayStation, and a Grandmaster in chess at the same time, while riding a rollercoaster. The sheer amount of incoming data from the Apache's complex systems demands that a pilot train themselves to shift focus between the eyes and ignore the unfocused one completely - essentially learning to shut eyes off without closing the eyelids. Here's an unconfirmed, yet very credible quote about it:
    "The trick is to learn how to ignore input from one eye and refer only to the input coming from the other eye, then switch between them and do this every few seconds. It usually takes anywhere between 9 to 12 months for a young pilot to become "safe" enough not to kill himself accidentally during night flights (until then, young pilots fly with instructor pilot or a senior and experienced pilot who can take controls in case of disorientation)".
  • The Great Western Railway tended to put the throttle on the other side from most British steam locomotives, forcing the driver to contort his body around the controls, and causing endless frustration post-nationalization when drivers not used to GWR controls were placed on GWR steam engines.