February 23, 2004

yet another vision of the ubi-future

Not sure how old this is, but Vodafone has put together a very slick, high production value Flash site showing their R&D lab's vision of the mobile, ubiquitous computing future. It's definitely worth a look, although you'll need some patience to get through it; there's a lot of moving parts and the designers are overly enamored with animated transitions.

So far I've gone through the entertainment scenario, and I haven't seen anything truly novel. It appears to be yet another variation on the theme of context-aware/situation-aware computing, spontaneously federated devices, new I/O peripherals, ubiquitous connectivity, and social media. Maybe I'm a bit jaded, but it's all starting to sound suspiciously like received wisdom. Is the pervasive computing/ubicomp vision held by so many researchers our modern version of the "personal jetpack" from the '50s?

So there's a good challenge to consider, for which Vodafone's vision is simply a convenient stalking horse: Given what we know about the tremendous advancements in the underlying technologies of computation, communication, I/O, etc, combined with our collective understanding (ahem) of human culture and society, can we create more imaginative, more insightful, more believable scenarios of the future? Can we articulate a world where ubiquitous golly-gee-whiz technologies become dull and commonplace, and the resulting long-term patterns of change in people's lives become evident? Can we take a step beyond shiny happy corporate sales tools, to consider the complex and ambivalent nature of ubicomp's impact on our lives, as these new technologies become truly pervasive and embedded in the fabric of the world?

I think it's time to re-evaluate assumptions and goals.

Posted by Gene at February 23, 2004 09:55 AM | TrackBack
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