- Microsoft HoloLens Goggles (Wired) — a media release about the next thing from the person behind Kinect. I’m still trying to figure out (as are investors, I’m sure) where in the hype curve this Googles/AR/etc. amalgam lives. Is it only a tech proof-of-concept? Is it a games device like Kinect? Is it good and cheap enough for industrial apps? Or is this the long-awaited climb out of irrelevance for Virtual Reality?
- The Facebook (YouTube) — brilliant fake 1995 ad for The Facebook. Excuse me, I’m off to cleanse.
- Natural Language in Social Robotics (Robohub) — Natural language interfaces are turning into a de-facto interface convention. Just like the GUI overlapped and largely replaced the command line, NLP is now being used by robots, the Internet of things, wearables, and especially conversational systems like Apple’s Siri, Google’s Now, Microsoft’s Cortana, Nuance’s Nina, Amazon’s Echo and others. These interfaces are designed to simplify, speed up, and improve task completion. Natural language interaction with robots, if anything, is an interface. It’s a form of UX that requires design.
- Microservices and Testing (Martin Fowler) — testing across component boundaries, in the face of failing data stores and HTTP timeouts. The first discussion of testing in a web-scale world that I’ve seen from The Mainstream.
I just read a Forbes article about Glass, talking about the split between those who are “sure that it is the future of technology, and others who think society will push back against the technology.”
I don’t see this as a dichotomy (and, to be fair, I’m not sure that the author does either). I expect to see both, and I’d like to think a bit more about what these two apparently opposing sides mean.
Push back is inevitable. I hope there’s a significant push back, and that it has some results. Not because I’m a Glass naysayer, but because we, as technology users, are abused so often, and push back so weakly, that it’s not funny. Facebook does something outrageous; a few technorati whine; they add option 1023 to their current highly intertwined 1022 privacy options that have been designed so they can’t be understood or used effectively; and sooner or later, it all dies down. A hundred fifty users have left Facebook, and half a million more have joined. When Apple puts another brick in their walled garden, a few dozen users (myself included) bitch and moan, but does anyone leave? Personally, I’m tired of getting warnings whenever I install software that doesn’t come from the Apple Store (I’ve used the Store exactly twice), and I absolutely expect that a not-too-distant version of OS X won’t allow me to install software from “untrusted” sources, including software I’ve written. Will there be push back? Probably. Will it be effective? I don’t know; if things go as they are now, I doubt it.
There will be push back against Glass; and that’s a good thing. I think Google, of all the companies out there, is most likely to listen and respond positively. I say that partly because of efforts like the Data Liberation Front, and partly because Eric Schmidt has acknowledged that he finds many aspects of Glass creepy. But going beyond Glass: As a community of users, we need to empower ourselves to push back. We need to be able to push back effectively against Google, but more so against Apple, Facebook, and many other abusers of our data, rather than passively accept the latest intrusion as an inevitability. If Glass does nothing more than teach users that they can push back, and teach large corporations how to respond constructively, it will have accomplished much.
Is Glass the future? Yes; at least, something like Glass is part of the future. As a species, we’re not very good at putting our inventions back into the box. About three years ago, there was a big uptick in interest in augmented reality. You probably remember: Wikitude, Layar, and the rest. You installed those apps on your phone. They’re still there. You never use them (at least, I don’t). The problem with consumer-grade AR up until now has been that it was sort of awkward walking around looking at things through your phone’s screen. (Commercial AR–heads-up displays and the like–is a completely different ball game.) Glass is the first attempt at broadly useful platform for consumer AR; it’s a game changer.
Could Glass fail? Sure; I know more failed startups than I can count where the engineers did something really cool, and when they released it, the public said “what is that, and why do you think we’d want it?” Google certainly isn’t immune from that disease, which is endemic to an engineering-driven culture; just think back to Wave. I won’t deny that Google might shelve Glass if they consider unproductive, as they’ve shelved many popular applications. But I believe that Google is playing long-ball here, and thinking far beyond 2014 or 2015. In a conversation about Bitcoin last week, I said that I doubt it will be around in 20 years. But I’m certain we will have some kind of distributed digital currency, and that currency will probably look a lot like Bitcoin. Glass is the same. I have no doubt that something like Glass is part of our future. It’s a first, tentative, and very necessary step into a new generation of user interfaces, a new way of interacting with computing systems and integrating them into our world. We probably won’t wear devices around on our glasses; it may well be surgically implanted. But the future doesn’t happen if you only talk about hypothetical possibilities. Building the future requires concrete innovation, building inconvenient and “creepy” devices that nevertheless point to the next step. And it requires people pushing back against that innovation, to help developers figure out what they really need to build.
Glass will be part of our future, though probably not in its current form. And push back from users will play an essential role in defining the form it will eventually take.
No Augmenting Money, Cat CV, Quantified Mind, and Hackable Bio
- Bank of England Complains About AR Bank Notes — After downloading the free Blippar app on iPhone or Android, customers were able to ‘blipp’ any ten-pound note in circulation by opening the app and holding their phone over the note. An animated Queen, and other members of the Royal Family, then appeared on the screen and voiced opinions on the latest football matters.
- Quantified Mind — battery of cognitive tests, so you can track performance over time and measure the effect of interventions (coffee, diet, exercise, whatever). (via Sara Winge)
- Jellyfish Made From Rat Cells (Nature) — an artificial jellyfish using silicone and muscle cells from a rat’s heart. The synthetic creature, dubbed a medusoid, looks like a flower with eight petals. When placed in an electric field, it pulses and swims exactly like its living counterpart. Very cool, but the bit that caught my eye was: the team built the medusoid as a way of understanding the “fundamental laws of muscular pumps”. It is an engineer’s approach to basic science: prove that you have identified the right principles by building something with them.
Memorable Indexes, Mobile Sensors, Augmented Reality Toys, and Collaborative Editing
- Memorable Indexes (Futility Closet) — Carroll’s index also includes entries for “Boots for horizontal weather,” “Horizontal rain, boots for,” “Rain, horizontal, boots for,” and “Weather, horizontal, boots for”. They’re silly and whimsical, but the underlying problem of making multiple accessible entrypoints into a single corpus of content is with us today and only compounded by the vast growth of the size of the corpora with which we deal.
- Geiger Counter for iPhone — reports radiation levels via Twitter, too. Expect to see more mobile sensor add-ons as the various smartphone hardware interfaces mature. (via Sara Winge)
- Suwappu App Prototype (BERG London) — augmented reality, without fugly QR codes, but with toys. what does a script look like, when you’re authoring a story for five or six woodland creatures, and one or two human kids who are part of the action? How do we deliver the story to the phone? What stories work best? This app scratches the surface of that, and I know these are the avenues the folks at Dentsu are looking forward to exploring in the future. It feels like inventing a new media channel.
Four vastly different projects marry augmented reality with publishing.
Here are four examples that illustrate how books and other publications are starting to use AR to power their pages.