For the last thirty years, since the birth of the Internet, both the physical and digital worlds have continued to evolve, with innovation after innovation. For most of that time, they have been two separate entities but the boundaries between the physical and digital worlds are crumbling.
Here are five innovations that are doing their utmost to break these barriers down.
Unhappy people have protested what they believe to be unfair or unjust treatment for centuries, possibly even millennia. It is part of human nature to stand up for what they believe.
One topic that is particularly likely to fire up a protest is an attempt by those in power to take away that very right to protest. I suppose in many ways that that is an example of the Streisand Effect – whereby if you try and gag discussion about something you generate more publicity than ever about that very act.
Spain is about to implement what has become known as a “gag law”. The Citizens’ Security Law aims to eradicate unauthorised street protests, giving a maximum 600,000 euro fine to participants, a 30,000 euro fine for distributing unauthorised photos of policemen, and even a 30,000 euro fine for covering your face in a demonstration.
A Spanish protest group has created a “protest, that isn’t a protest” with nobody actually present. Instead, thousands of holograms did the legwork, protesting outside the lower house of Spain’s Parliament. These holograms provided a reminder to the politicians that even with the highly restrictive new laws, protest can still happen – just without protesters risking having their bodies on the street.
Why is this important?
As the world becomes increasingly digital, the lines between the physical and virtual world will continue to blur. Laws that apply in the physical world may not apply to you in the digital world. This is an exciting example of what happens when you bring your digital self to the physical world. Your message is the same, your feelings do not change, but in this scenario, you are no longer breaking protest laws. It inspires serious and fascinating questions for the future, and I can’t help but wonder when we’ll have our first million-man march in the same manner.
Times Square is about to gain a whole new look, thanks to the latest in marketing displays. 3D digital billboards (more technically called outdoor autostereoscopic displays) will soon dominate the intersection, sending their very visual images jumping out at the passers-by. Moreover, the 3D images will be visible to anyone in a 10 to 70 meter range, without them having to wear special glasses. The images are projected using high-powered lasers, meaning that they will be visible even in harsh sunlight.
The technology works by producing two distinct images, one for each eye. This gives another possible use for the displays. At times, instead of creating a full-blown 3D image, it is possible to have two distinct images on the billboard. The particular picture any person saw would depend on where they were in relation to the screen. There could be different adverts visible for people coming out of different shops.
For fans of 80s movies it’s hard not to think of the classic Back to the Future II scene with the 3D ‘JAWS 19’ billboard gobbling up Michael J Fox (jump to 1:05)
Why is this important?
We might not be clamoring for more ads in this world, but I doubt many of us won’t appreciate some of the new areas for creative thinking this will unleash. The use of glasses-free 3D in such a high profile location will likely only drive further adoption of this kind of technologies in the mainstream world. If this technology takes off the days of sitting at the movies, wearing those geeky glasses may be numbered.
Google Fiber TV Ad Platform
Modern internet advertising is clever. No matter where you go online, you seem to see ads for the same juicer you have been searching for. You look over your shoulder and wonder if someone has been stalking you. It does know what you have been viewing. It learns your interests and likes, and tries to match up the most appropriate ads for you. If you have shown an interest in something, it keeps on reminding you of that.
Modern television advertising works very much the same way it did in the 50s. Google is (finally) trying to replicate the online media approach with television advertising. No longer will you be a passive recipient of televisions ads that someone else decides to serve to you and millions of other people. Now you will be receiving the ads that are most suitable for your tastes and interests.
The ads delivered to Google Fiber subscribers will be selected based on a viewer’s geography, the kind of show they are watching and that household’s viewing history.
Because the ad serving is so highly customized, advertisers will only be charged based on how many times their ad has been served. Advertisers can limit the number of times that a particular ad plays on a specific TV.
Why is this important?
Traditional TV advertising, although it has a broad reach, is a shotgun approach to reaching consumers. Google is bringing the power of digital advertising to TV. Many people might not love advertising, but they typically hate non-relevant advertising. This will create better experiences for consumers and better value for advertisers. Bluntly, this has been a long time coming.
Art in the Form of Virtual Reality Immersion
Art is a very wide-ranging field and often involves the participants receiving many sensory experiences. Seeing-I is a very different social-artistic experiment where artist Mark Farid will spend 28 days wearing a virtual reality headset, experiencing life through another person’s eyes and ears.
Interestingly Mark knows very little about the man whose life he will be “living” (known as the Input) apart from the fact that he is a heterosexual male who is in a relationship. The Input will be wearing glasses that capture audio and video in an 180-degree field of vision.
While the Input will be living a normal life (well, as normal as you can be with these special glasses on 24/7) Mark will spend the 28 days as the “artwork” on public display in an area that simply has a bed, toilet, and shower area. For one hour a day (while the Input is sleeping), the audience will be sent away, and Mark will spend time with a psychologist specializing in neuroscience.
As he “lives” the life of the Input, will he begin to think like the Input? Alternatively, will he keep his sense of self? Will Mark begin to take on the characteristics and mannerisms of the Input? Will freewill override everything?
Why is this important?
We’ve covered Virtual Reality many times in Take Me To Your Leader. This isn’t a fad; VR is a technological inevitability, and its sociological impact will be as profound as its technical one. When VR quality is good enough will it really allow us to leave our lives and adopt any persona we want? What impact will that have on our individual perception of self and each other? This artist is exploring some fascinating areas by being, arguably, one of the first people to truly immerse themselves in another’s life through VR.
Actual 3D Displays
3D data has been part of the spreadsheet for many years now. However, what if our spreadsheets were really, physically 3D. Imagine if you could have a practical tactile interaction with your spreadsheet.
Researchers are developing the next generation of displays, and some of these have 3D reconfigurable surfaces. Your “flat screen” will be able to deform itself into other more appropriate shapes. They will adapt its shape to the content being presented. If your displays allow pixels to protrude from their surfaces, this creates a whole new ballgame for tactile interaction. Imagine using a CAD program using such a display, or doing terrain modeling where you can create a 3D world at your fingertips.
A team at Lancaster University led by Jason Alexander has begun experimenting in this field. They have already created the 3D spreadsheet device (or at least a 10 x 10 interactive bar chart). This can represent data visualization tasks like displaying data, filtering data, and organizing it into different rows and columns. Alright, this is not yet a dynamic flowing touchscreen, but it is a movement in the right direction.
Users found it extremely simple to manipulate the data points and compare datasets, when they played with the physical bars on the graph. Although you can easily do this in Excel, the results are so much more vivid in actual 3D.
Why is this important?
With the mass adoption of touchscreens on smartphones, tablets, and laptops, we’ve very much entered a touch-centric computing world. Touch screens form a blank pallet for communications and creative interaction models with users. By dynamically adding another dimension to screens, we are further extending the possibilities of creative and effective design. It is a natural evolution of the screen that I think will become quite common in the future.