Saturday, October 29, 2011

Vision video

Here's an inspired video by Microsoft on how we might interact with our digital devices in the future:

There's a number of interesting ideas here to ponder.

First, notice how all the devices interact with each other. While she's in the taxi, her handheld device beams tomorrow's meeting details to the cab's display, which then highlights the building her meeting is in the next day. As she enters the hotel room, the hotel display lights up recommending running routes, and so on. This isn't something that will be very easy to build: Just imagine the security and privacy implications of having your handheld beam personal data to the cab opportunistically: The cab may not have driven by her next day's appointment, so the handheld would have needed to send more than was displayed to the cab. We'll also have to figure out how to keep these devices connected, as cell network connectivity is still very limited and short-range network technologies like Bluetooth wouldn't allow for the instant connectivity as demonstrated here.

Also notice all the gesture-based controls in the video. People are touching and swiping on surfaces, but also waving their hands to flip pages, whether at close range or sitting on the hotel bed paging through recipes on the hotel TV. I wonder how hard this will be to build. We've seen gesture-based controls in Kinect and Wii, but they only work with extensive calibration and the controls are imprecise at best for the types of interactions shown here, for example cropping and zooming the world map back at HQ. Then of course you'll have to teach humans how to use all these fancy gesture-based controls, which will require a lot of thought.

I love watching videos like this that show how the computing revolution is far from over. Lots of work left to do.

Living in the 21st Century

Here's a fascinating chart from the The Economist's Daily Chart blog, slightly edited for size [*]: 

The world's population and economic output are growing exponentially. No surprise there. But there's an interesting angle to look at population: Instead of counting the total number of people on the planet, you count the number of minutes lived by humans in a particular century. In the first 10 years of this century, we've out-experienced the 17th century.

We love comparing ourselves to others, and we see more people than ever having more experiences than ever. With Facebook, Google+, and Twitter permeating our lives, others' experiences are more accessible, so we're bombarded with things to compare ourselves to, giving us lots of opportunities to feel inadequate.

On the bright side,  humanity has certainly earned how to make products and services. With the 21st century already at about a third of of the output of the entire 20th century, people are living healthier, more productive, more comfortable lives than ever.

[*] I realize the y-axis in the chart is a percentage, and by cutting off 1st to 8th centuries so the chart would here horizontally, they no longer add to 100%. Yet I feel like the central point of the chart still remains.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Less stuff, more happiness

A great TED talk about how owning stuff makes you happier, and how this century will be about editing rather than the relentless pursuit of more.

What's in the box?