Many Sci-Fi movies and video games have this circular interface used on touch-screens and interfaces (the Iron Man movies or the class select screens from Mass Effect are two examples).

What is this structure's name? Who first designed it/where did it come from? Is there a math or computer science concept behind it that influences its structure, or is it just to "look cool"?

The pictures below are from doing a google image search for "Sci-Fi Circular Interface"

I consider this more of a "history and background of a sci-fi trope" sort-of question, more than a design and illustration question.

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    What movies, specifically? Where are the pictures from? Jun 7, 2019 at 3:15
  • 3
    Hmm... WWPTS? What would Prof Tufte say? :)
    – DavidW
    Jun 7, 2019 at 3:47
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    I've voted too broad. This boils down to "who invented CGI circles", to which the answer is, probably IBM
    – Valorum
    Jun 7, 2019 at 5:53
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    I don't see how this question can be on topic as you appear to be asking for where did it come from in the real world. On top of that if you're asking across the SFF genres as a whole this is to broad unless restricted to a specific work. And then you have at least 3 questions which again would make it too broad...
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Jun 7, 2019 at 11:42
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    @Gaultheria This isn't behind the scenes and barely fandom information though. In fact it's asking for its real name in the real world and who came up with it in the real world which would mean it isn't fandom information but more like history of a UI design.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Jun 7, 2019 at 12:23

1 Answer 1


These appear to be very large and detailed forms of what is normally known (when it appears on a real-world computer screen) as a "ring menu." The term "pie menu" is also attested, but it seems to be much less common.

I am unsure whether the earliest depictions of ring menus are from science fiction or real-world computing. Real-world ring menus were probably made famous by the 1993 video game "Secret of Mana." However, they show up plenty of other places too. Here is a Mac app that converts the bottom tool bar into a ring menu.

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    There's also the Microsoft Dial, which places a circular menu on any compatible apps on Microsoft Surface products.
    – user71418
    Jun 7, 2019 at 10:17
  • I've also often heard this referred to as a "radial menu". (In my personal experience, I've heard "radial menu" more often than "ring menu" or "pie menu".) Jun 10, 2019 at 18:38

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