Archivo para 8 julio 2012

Akademy-triggered random thoughts about the future

I’m writing this text during a flight from Helsinki to Brussels on my way home from Akademy. I had a good and quite interesting time in there and I can say that I’m proud to be a member of the vibrant community called KDE.

When I was a child I wanted to be an inventor, and I was always thinking about new inventions, doing experiments and discovering things on my own. Then I discovered that with a single computer you can make happen any idea you have in your mind and convert it into reality, and that’s how at an early age I started to develop software.

KDE is all about ideas, about innovation, so I feel at home in here because people are open minded and like to think about future. I had lots of discussions about these topics: how is the future of KDE could or should be, where are we heading, what is the current situation and also brainstorming sessions about how far can technology go and how free software could anticipate this.

Currently and in the short-mid term, the biggest struggle of the KDE community and the free software in general are privative web services. Richard Stallman has warned us about this problem for a some time now, and I think it’s definitely true. This Akademy I have seen lots of people using web services like Google docs, Gmail for emails and chattting, facebook, linkedin, spotify, grooveshark, etc. I’m not pointing fingers here: this is just an increasing reality and I am part of those too.

We need to accept and agree that web services are here to stay and what we should do is to try to, first integrate them as much as possible in our ecosystem and to promote free software web services like owncloud, because it’s our only chance to remain relevant and not lose too much the field. We at Wadobo are ready to install it in our own server for example. The Free Software movement is already part of the history of Internet, and if we want to remain being part of it we need to adapt to the changes.

In a not so distant future, about three to five years, things will probably start to change, and I argue that we are going to see an invasion of Internet into reality. Yes, I’m thinking about immersive reality and gadgets like Google glasses. My friend and also Wadobo fellow Dani had a crazy brainstorming about this topic during Akademy and I think we ended up both convinced about the very broad possibilities that this new Internet bring to us.

It’s a really interesting exercise to think about the possibilities that devices like Google glasses bring, how they can enter into our life, and the implications and repercussions of all that. Basically the idea is that will have some a pair of glasses that also act as computer display, showing information over reality at all times. As simple and powerful as that.

We have seen that kind of stuff in science fiction: Dragon Ball Z, Terminator, and many more. The key thing is to make the glasses to correctly show contextual information on the go, transparently, pervasively when you actually need it and with having to do anything, just pointing your eyes/head which is something that you already do all the time in your life.

The main focus of this technology is to be a passive contextual interface. This is the business model of Google ads: they appear here and there in web pages showing related information to you. To achieve that the glasses will analyze the information sources it has (geolocalization via GPS/wireless signals, the camera pointing to what you see, other near devices, etc) to analyze the current situation in a rapid manner. Google is an information company, and if they succeed they will suddenly have so much more information about us that it will be quite scary:

    • They are already doing some steps in this direction. For example, the automatic subtitles service in Youtube could probably be applied in the future for real time translated subtitles and all people could understand each other no matter what language they use.
    • Also the advertisements business model will jump to reality: as an advertiser you could for example be able to superpose your ad about your shiny new car over old cars, or blank empty spaces. Talk about contextual and immersive advertisement.
    • The cards we use with our name and nickname on it in events like akademy won’t be needed any more: that information will be over-layered in your t shirt, or above your head. These kind of applications will probably appear in two ways: to be used in reduced contexts, and also as general purpose social networks with support for groups, etc. The next new facebook will definitely be born in here. This will take social networks to the next level. Parents will love to be able to as a glance always know where their children are, because their position will have appear to them superposed in the glasses as an indicator. This will probably also happen when you speak with someone, along with information about the call (time, cost, etc).
    • These glasses also will be regarded by ecologists as a very good invention, because you won’t need to buy any screen at all anymore. No need for screen at your workstation at work, another for your laptop, another for TV, no need to any kind of projector for presentations or at the cinema. It will be much more cost effective also. Big screen makers should be worried, their business model is going to change dramatically to the small ones and many companies will suffer this transition. Wearable computing will make our whole current computer experience change: TV, mobile phones, tablets, ebooks, workstations, laptops all will be affected. Maybe the people in the future will think about our current era as something clunky and unhealthy, where to use the computer you needed to use all these big and crazy devices, the same way we now think about cities of early 19th century as very unhealthy, filled with dirty things, smoke and non-efficient.
    • People will have their life recorded and this will bring webcams to whole new level. People will share their life on the net on live and they will have it stored completely. You will be able to attend to Akademy and do a guided tour in Tallinn through the glasses of David Faure for example. You will be able to go through a timeline of your whole life, zoom in and revive the experience you had.

This will also affect to transparency and behavior in public. Car accidents will usually be recorded from the point of view of different people and it will be much easier to judge what really happened. There will probably be a site where people will tag illegal behavior (robbery, bad parking in zebra crossings etc) and this of course will affect how people behave in public. You will also be able to easily report if traffic lights are not working and providing proof of it.

  • Services like Google street view will be also revamped: they will instantly be updated with the images of everyone’ glasses. The whole street view will be available everywhere, in 3d, and instantly updated. In the end this will allow you not only to see the world in the eyes of someone else, but to virtually move around any place in the world in real time.


And this is a small list of what currently our imagination let us reach. Some of the things written here might never happen, some will happen sooner than others, and many new original ideas did not enter the list. Most of these things won’t be possible with the first immersive reality glasses available either. But you can see now this that we are talking about is something new and interesting, which most probably will get it’s own name. For me, it’s the Realnet, because of how close is this network to reality.