At the recent Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) conference, Pattie Maes of the MIT Media Labs (yes, the same folks that conceptualized the OLPC) demonstrated what is lauded to be the future of wearable computing. It’s just a prototype–an ugly one, at that!–but what it presents is the potential to interact with just about any object by interfacing with the Internet. You don’t have to be in front of a computer, because the device is wearable. And you don’t need a screen or other input device, because the thing projects images onto any surface, and you interact with it using hand gestures.
Seeing it would probably remind you of Tom Cruise in Minority Report (and I’d love to look like Tom).
Developed by Pranav Mistry, and called Sixth Sense, the device “enables new interactions between the real world and the world of data.” It’s sort of like having your smartphone and browsing for reviews, user profiles or other interesting information, but without the inconvenience of having to hold it in your hand, type in some information, and scrolling through a number of search results.
So for instance, you can be buying groceries, and you see product reviews and prices right on the surface of the thing you’re buying. Or even more interesting, you could be talking to someone, and information about that person appears right on the surface of his/her shirt–latest blog posts, photos, tag clouds, interests. It’s meta data on just about anything.
And the current prototype supposedly only costs $350 to build!
I would reckon this kind of new media is still a long way from being in wide use. And of course, there are a multitude of privacy and other concerns that this brings about. How would you like your music, food and other preferences displayed on your chest when you talk to someone?
But I think this is the kind of innovation that would really be able to use the rich mine of information that the Internet provides into something really intuitively useful for the everyman. Imagine being able to take snapshots by just framing a scene with your fingers! Imagine dialing a phone number on the palm of hour hand! Now that’s convenience.