Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Rethinking normal 9: looking ahead and at currently emerging change 2

Posted in business and convergent technologies, reexamining the fundamentals by Timothy Platt on October 14, 2013

This is my ninth 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.)

I began a discussion of wearable computers in Part 8 of this series, with a selectively brief discussion of the emergence of ubiquitous computing and communications technologies and their impact on normal. And that led up to the beginning of a discussion of the initial release of Google Glass, which I see as an embryonic-stage next generation technology that in its iterations and elaborations will be seen as a true disruptive turning point, and both in what we do and can do and in how we see and understand normal.

Google Glass is amazing; Google Glass, and certainly as initially released is incredibly limited in what it can do. It is designed to be used fleetingly at any one time and is uncomfortable to read anything of any complexity on with its screen and how users are forced to use it. For gamers, Google Glass is definitely not a platform of choice with its head tilted up requirements and its design intended to thwart ongoing concentrated use. Starting out, there are only a few very limited apps available though that will change. Glass supports voice command input but unless you hack this device by installing a Linux operating system, you cannot use a Bluetooth-enabled wireless one-hand keyboard of the type used with earlier, more custom-built and self-built wearable computers.

Google Glass as initially released is very limited; but it is also amazing for its potential and for what will grow out of it, and as more and more apps come online and become publically available and as interface bugs are worked out, creating a better balance between being online and being present in a real world here-and-now. So I write this aware of and thinking in terms of this initial version release but I also write this in terms of what I see coming and both inevitably and soon.

The first cell phones were referred to as brick phones and for a reason. They were roughly the same size and shape as construction bricks. The first working cell phones literally weighed 2.2 pounds, or 1 kilogram making them heavier than a standard brick. And unless you were located in one of the few locals that had wireless connectivity available they were about as useful as phones as bricks were. Now, at the 30 year mark after the release of the first commercially available cell phone model: the Motorola DynaTAC 8000x, cell and smartphones are all but ubiquitous and both in developed countries and in many still-developing countries as well. And modern smartphones have evolved into being powerful, flexibly capable networked computers as well as telephonic communications devices.

Wearable computers, and even as exemplified by Google Glass, will be looked back upon as if wearable brick phones and both for their soon-to-be relative awkwardness of use and for their initial functional range and flexibility. And just as with laptops and tablet computers and handhelds and smartphones as discussed in Part 8 of this series,

• The killer apps that emerge for Glass and its technology relatives will be disruptive and unpredictable on the basis of prior technologies.
• And they will become commonplace and their use through wearable computers will become standard and expected,
• With more and more people always being functionally, directly online at essentially all times and regardless of where they are, except perhaps when they are sound asleep.

And with this in mind I specifically turn to consider how this new class of technology might and probably will affect our sense of normal and the expected.

• Google, probably with the growing evidence of cell phoning and texting while driving in mind, and similar usage problems, has made its Glass computer/communicator easy to use – but primarily for brief activities. Its fundamental user interface design seems to have been built for not engaging in lengthy attention-grabbing activities while possibly driving or carrying out other “real world” activities that would become problematical because of that.
• But it is certain that this will change and if not for Google hardware then for other manufacturers’ products. And as more and more apps become available, only some of which will be Google provided or approved, that will change for Glass too.

I mentioned above how it is possible for someone with programming skills to hack Glass to install Linux on it so they can use a wireless keyboard for text entry in searching and other activities. I have also heard of third party Glass-ready apps for making use of its camera capability – without a telltale light showing to indicate that the Google Glass device is in use. That is one that Google would definitely not approve of but it does work and more like it will follow. My point is that it should be quite possible for programmers to work around the longer usage usability restrictions in place in Glass from its pre-installed and approved operating system and apps.

With time, wearable computers a lot more powerful and user-friendly than our current version of Glass will come along and they will be widely adapted and their costs will drop even as they become more powerful and more user-friendly.

And I immediately see two areas that are central to our understanding of normal that will change because of this. One involves our sense of expectable privacy, and the other involves how we distinguish between space and cyberspace and between conventionally real and virtual reality. I was initially planning on delving into the second of those areas of impact in this posting, but continued laying a foundation for that discussion here. I will discuss both of them, starting with privacy and its issues in my next series installment. 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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