By Amit Nandi
I recently started reading a book called “I Live in the Future & Here’s How It Works” by Nick Bilton. I got interested in the book after reading an excerpt online at the New York Times, where Bilton is the lead writer for their technology blog. This is where my life started imitating art.
While I was waiting for the e-book to download, I read on to the second half of the excerpt. Bilton describes a nifty rule he calls “1, 2, 10”; numbers that describe the distance between your eyes, the screen of a mobile device, computer screen and television screen, respectively. He asserts that content will eventually follow us from screen to screen and place to place. While this exact future hasn’t happened yet, a reasonable facsimile of it was taking place in a race between the downloading of his book both on my computer and my iPod touch. Having the content accessible on a large monitor during the day and at bedtime is really handy when you’re writing to a deadline.
While Bilton covers a wide expanse of topics ranging from the evolution of content delivery to relationships in social networks, there’s a conversation it can start about how we can enable the user experience in a world with interacting embedded systems.
We’re in the infancy of understanding truly user-centric design as it relates to multiple intelligent devices interacting with each other, providing a seamless experience, as our location, focus and interest changes. Technologies like Bluetooth have been out for a decade; consumer GPS longer than that, and both in cars for years - yet I still can’t find my keys in the morning. My set top box can’t remember where I stopped watching last night’s movie when I power it back on, let alone downscaling it for me to watch it on a trip. It would be delightful to listen to the new Arcade Fire album during my evening commute, picking up where I left off at the office.
Bilton himself explored similar scenarios to the above with a colleague using a cellphone, embedding an RFID chip inside, attaching an RFID reader to a computer and writing some code to track articles he was reading on NYTimes.com. Their proof of concept passed articles automatically back and forth. A person who prototypes the future in addition to writing about it is a rare beast.
If journalists can do that, surely those of us who are technology insiders can dream and design as well. We are in the age of ubiquitous computing; we might as well get cracking at providing the technology to enable the future that Nick Bilton writes about.
Amit is the Product Line Manager for Wind River Workbench development tools. He has over 16 years of Software Development and Product Management experience and is currently working to accelerate the time to market for VxWorks and Wind River Linux developers. Amit holds a bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering from Carleton University and a master's degree in business administration from Queen's University.