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Can't believe it's been a week since I posted here! Trip to the east coast was great and I'll admit that I get a sense of 'home' whenever I'm there (as many of you know, I'm from Boston). Something about giant mountains of black snow on the sidewalk just makes me nostalgic. But it's great to be back in my new home here in the Pacific Northwest.

A few of you sent me a note about this article by Gord Hotchkiss, and commented how closely it resonates with a lot of the essays here on MVIS Blog of my own vision of the future:

A Caffeine Fueled Vision of the Future

The Cloud

For the sake of this post, I'm calling my version of the new Web "the Cloud", borrowing some language from Microsoft. For me the Cloud is all about universal access, functionality, connection and information. The Cloud becomes the repository where we put all our information, both that which we want to make publicly accessible and that which we want to keep private. Initially this will cause some concern, as we wrestle with the change of thinking required to understand that physical ownership of data does not always equal security of that same data. We'll have to gain a sense of comfort that data stored in online repositories can still remain private.

The final noteworthy aspect of the Cloud is that it will create the basic foundation for all communication in the future. Our entertainment options will be delivered through the Cloud. We will communicate with each other through the Cloud, either by talking, writing or seeing each other. We will access all our information through the Cloud.

For the Cloud to work, it has to be ubiquitous. This represents possibly the single greatest challenge at the current time. The Cloud is already being built, but our ability to access the Cloud still depends on the speed of our connection and the fact is right now, our wireless infrastructure doesn't allow for a robust enough connection to really leverage what the Cloud has to offer. But universal wireless access is currently being rolled out in more and more locations, so the day is drawing near when access will cease to be a problem.

The Mobile Device

When we talk about tangible technology that will enable this future; hardware that we can see and touch, the mobile piece of the equation is the most critical. For us to truly realize the full functionality of the Cloud, we have to have universal access to it. It has to come with us as we live our lives. The new mobile device becomes a constant connection to the Cloud. Small, sleek, GPS enabled, with extended communication capabilities, the new handheld device will become our computing device of choice. All the data and the functionality that we could require at any time exists in the Cloud. The handheld device acts as our primary connection to the Cloud We pull down the information that we need, we rent functionality as required, we do what we have to do and then we move on with our lives.

Better Visual Displays

The other challenge with a mobile device is in freeing ourselves from the tiny little 2.5" x 2 .5" screen. It just does not produce a very satisfying user experience. One of the biggest frustrations I hear about the lack of functionality with many of the mobile apps comes just because we don't have enough screen real estate. This is where a heads-up display could make our lives much, much easier. Right now they're still pretty cumbersome and make us look like cyborgs but you just know we're not far from the day where they could easily be built into a pair of non-intrusive eyeglasses. Then the output from our mobile device can be as large as we wanted to be.

Going this one step further, let's borrow a scene from Spielberg's Minority Report. We have the heads-up display which creates a virtual 3-D representation of the interface. We could also have sensors on our hands that would turn that display into a virtual 3-D touchscreen experience. We could "touch" different things within the display and interact with our computing device in this way. Combined with sub vocalization speech commands, this could create the ultimate user interface. Does this sound far-fetched? Microsoft has already developed much of the technology and has licensed it to a company called eon reality. Like I said no matter what the mind can envision, it's probably already under development. As I started down this path, it particularly struck me how many of the components under development had the Microsoft brand on them.


At March 17, 2007 at 10:23 PM Kevin said...

Yeah, I like the metaphor of The Cloud. All this came to me during a night of caffeine-induced sleeplessness sometime back in 1995, and the naysayers of the time shook their heads and said "Not enough bandwidth". 12 years later, it's all coming to pass. I look forward to playing piano and drums by thumping on my dining table, looking up at night and seeing the stars and planets labeled, playing guitar in church with the chords & words floating in front of my eyes and whatever else I haven't thought of yet. Hope Microvision helps it happen. Cheers!


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