The Sixth Sense?

The theory goes that our technology can enable us to have a sixth sense. With the computer I keep in my pocket, I can find directions, addresses of local businesses and amenities, restaurant reviews

Pattie Maes of MIT demoed this at TED, from the Fluid Interfaces Group:

The flashy bit is actually the least important part of the technology – it’s not about the projection mechanism – it’s more about the interpretation algorithm. Software that understands context.

While I have seen ‘wearable’ interfaces before, they tend to look a little dorky – but then we all thought Lieutenant Uhura was odd with her earpiece and now every second car driver wears a bluetooth earpiece. Why the earpiece is not acceptable as pedestrian wear is beyond me. It would seem to be obvious.

And with the recent innovation of adding voiceover to one of the smallest music players on the market – the player reads the text of MP3 tags to you – it’s not long before we can expect something similar in the iPhone and other smartphones. Receive a text – yeah, just read it to me. Email, yup. Tweets, sure. Tell me that your battery is low. Give me email filters to read out any message marked urgent or those from certain people.

I don’t need a projector around my neck – I want something which will, for example, use Bluetooth to identify folk I meet (gee, need some handy peer-peer tech there), immediately fetch me their social data from Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter or whatever is popular, and then feed that information into my earhole so I know what to say. Yes, there’s technical difficulties here (though a lot of interface choices could be handled with a chording approach or using the thumb to select from four finger choices).

I think the problem is that I’ve ranted about this before. I want a Ghost in the machine which will handle some of the mundanes for me. I want it to feed me with more info, on demand. And what’s best – this is all UI. It’s about putting a more human interface onto existing technology. At the moment we only really use our eyes for data and we respond to much more than just visuals. When we watch a movie, it doesn’t matter if the screen is huge or fits in our pocket as long as the sound is good. We need to be using the aural sense a lot more and not just for indignant beeps.

It’s not the projector round your neck or the attached camera. That’s information and interface without privacy and exclusivity. I’ll happily carry round my iPhone if this was available – I already carry it everywhere.

Heck, I’d even settle for something that could just tell me yes or no.