Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Rethinking normal 8: looking ahead and at currently emerging change 1

Posted in business and convergent technologies, reexamining the fundamentals by Timothy Platt on October 9, 2013

This is my eighth installment to a series on change, and more specifically about our understanding of what is normal, and how normal and assumable change (see Reexamining the Fundamentals, Section III for other postings to this series.) And my goal for this installment is to at least begin a discussion of currently emerging change that is certain to significantly impact on our understanding of normal and acceptable and with time for virtually everyone, globally.

Much of what I will be writing about here involves Google Glass and similar products that are soon to follow, and both as updated product versions from Google, and from its competitors. But I begin this discussion from what by the calendar at least still qualifies as relatively recent history. And as a specific starting point, I begin with the first publically released version of the first generally used web browser: NCSA’s Mosaic.

I have been writing in this blog about our increasingly ubiquitous capability to connect from anywhere to anywhere and at any time, since its very beginning and as an increasingly democratically inclusive capability. And in a real sense this posting addresses a point that I have been working towards for that entire time (see my directory Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time and its page 2 continuation, and in particular see my 2009 posting: Will Any Single Killer App Define Virtual Reality?)

• Google Glass marks a turning point and a threshold of change that rises to a level of significance where it can be said to mark a disruptive break from this still recent past.
• I just stated above that this posting is in large part about this new device, but that is in fact misleading and it is probably best considered only partly accurate. This posting is in fact about the discontinuity in what we see as normal, that Glass represents, as a first and still tentative starting point.

The internet was around for a number of technology generations before the advent of the World Wide Web and the first publically available and freely distributed web browser that could be used to connect into it. But this earlier internet was primarily a haven for people with computer programming skills and command-line interface coding preferences, or who at least were comfortable enough with those restrictions to be able to comfortably function with them. The Web and its first general public-release browser, in a fundamental sense made an online and publically accessible and involving cyberspace possible. This is where ubiquitous connectivity and computing became possible – as anyone could go online to see what was there and tap into it, and as any business or individual could increasing go online too with their own web sites and web content. But connectivity and involvement was one-way as this early iteration was based on a broadcast model and with no real interactive capability included.

I note two parallel and profoundly interconnected technology evolution trends here as having shaped what happened next:

• In one, hardware shifted from the big (relatively speaking) and cumbersome of the desktop computer to the more portable of laptops and tablets and handhelds. And coordinately with this, and through both wireless telephone and Wi-Fi and related connectivity options, these smaller and I add progressively more powerful and functionally flexible devices became untethered so they could be used virtually anywhere to connect in.
• And the other was and still emergingly is interactivity where information flow becomes two-way and even multi-directional and at high bandwidth so essentially data types can be shared, including high resolution video and multimedia.

But the hardware available for this has always been obvious – and as such as created an overt barrier separating connected users from the cyberspace that they connect into and through, and from the people and increasingly artificial intelligence-capable computer systems that they connect with. Google Glass marks a turning point because this is a device that people can realistically wear all of the time, at least when they are awake. And it is designed to itself become as if invisible where the only aspect of it that demands attention becomes the experience entered into through it. The device becomes invisible and what it does becomes everything.

I will not name the company or the people attempting to launch it but I recently received an offer to buy into and participate in a virtual reality helmet producer’s startup launch. Photos of their device as prototype show what looks like an old-style pair of goggles as would be used for snorkeling or scuba diving – only the mask was completely opaque with no light or viewable image passing in either direction through its front, and this front plate fanned out a bit and was wider than a swim mask. This device is lightweight and has ear buds so it offers sight and sound when a user puts it on. It is designed primarily if not exclusively for use with virtual reality games where it is intended to create a next generation high fidelity immersive experience at an affordable price. But when I first saw it with its two straps holding it in place: one going around the head and the other over the top of the head, I could not help but think that it looked like “grandpa’s VR helmet.” Google began sharing photos of its new and I add very different device while this was under development, and the look of its offering alone is enough to make anything smacking of older generation VR technology look dated, and no matter how evolutionarily updated it actually technically is.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will discuss one vision as to how this new technology vision and approach can and I suspect will redefine normal and for enough people to become a new standard understanding as to what normal can even mean. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at Reexamining the Fundamentals. I am also including this in Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 2 and also see my first Ubiquitous Computing and Communications directory page.

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