By Dick Pelletier
Technology promises radical change in relationships.
We are in the midst of a sea of change, in which not only are
many traditional relationships failing, but unexpected new
arrangements are beginning to appear; gay marriages are becoming
increasingly popular, and many people are consciously choosing to
live alone. How does technology affect relationships? Telephones,
cameras, and camcorders have long been instrumental in bringing
people together. Today, many spend time chatting on the phone or
the Internet – trying to develop or strengthen friendships.
Now technology is entering a bold, but controversial new step.
In the UK, University of Redding’s Kevin Warwick, and his wife
Irena will soon link their emotions together with chip implants.
Tiny silicon chips will enable the couple to “read” each other’s
feelings wherever they are. Every feeling – positive and negative –
will be shared.
This technology will not be endorsed by everyone. Many believe
sharing every feeling is too invasive – some feelings need to be
private. But we live in a time when over half of all marriages end
in divorce, so researchers in their search to fill needs, examine
where technologies might help. (cont.)
A social exhibit called the telectroscope
allows crowds in London and New York to interact with one another
through a video “tunnel”, aka a giant webcam.
Conceived by installation artist Paul
St. George, the device is named after the first word used to
describe the possibility of a 2-way television back in 1878
and is stylized to look like an invention by H.G. Wells.
Despite its relative simplicity, the exhibit is drawing
considerable attention in both real life and through the
blogosphere, indicating that it has struck a chord with the popular
As LED and OLED interfaces get cheaper and web
connections get faster, we can expect such tele-portals to expand
in size and resolution and to proliferate. Just imagine how
fascinating the next generation of huge interactive windows to
different cities, concerts, real-time news events, etc, will turn
out to be, and what sorts of new behavior they will make possible.
In a paper released yesterday, AJ.P. Gownder and James L.
McQuivey at Forrester predict that by 2013
Apple will become the hub of the digital home. They support
this contention by imagining
eight future Apple
products including “wall-mountable digital picture frames with
small high-definition screens and speakers that wirelessly play
media”, “an Apple ‘clock radio’ that pipes in music and other media
across a home network”, and “an ‘AppleSound’ universal remote
control, also with a touch-sensitive screen, that lets users browse
their music collections and change the songs playing through their
stereo as they stroll around the house.”
I tend to concur with the rest of the
blogosphere in that this is quite the tame list and that we’ll
probably see significantly more advanced products from the likes of
Apple circa 2013. With dropping component costs (hi-rez screens,
processors, graphics cards, etc.), rising data transfer speeds
(Internet2, a possible
re-allocation of analog TV spectrum) new competition from
proliferating design & interface companies, and the fact that
most of these concepts already in prototype, I believe such
products are more likely to hit mass-markets inside of 3 years
rather than 5 long years away.
In particular I find the “wall-mountable digital picture frames”
prediction a bit weak. If former Xerox PARC
Director John Seely Brown is accurate
in his estimation that Apple CEO
Steve Jobs “is
positioning himself to take over completely the living room,” then
by 2013 I see the company developing radically cooler products such
as a slick telepresence
interface that future blogger Dick Pelletier expects
by 2015 or before .
Being that such devices, albeit clunky and expensive versions,
are already being sold by the likes of
VisBox, and that
holographic and projection technologies could eliminate
the expensive screen altogether, it’s unlikely that Steve Jobs and
his crack team of agile researchers and designers haven’t yet
realized the trumping value of rich multi-purpose,
telepresence-enabling interfaces. (cont.)