Jamboard and Surface Studio are hints of our future tech

Have you seen Jamboard yet? Future tech, particularly interfaces with our data, fascinates me. I love the visions we see coming from the likes of Corning and Microsoft’s research teams.

Many of the visions look like something right out of the Star Trek reboot movie series and we could well see that as our reality in the coming years. Two new devices bring those visions a little closer.

Google just launched a product called Jamboard which looks like a step in this direction, for sure. Jamboard is a step forward for team collaboration and data interfaces but it is still rooted in our current, clunky interfaces.

Watch the video from about 01:00 in and you see what I mean. As progressive as the interface seems, the moment you see a person pushing this big screen on wheels with a power cable out of one room and into another, you can see the limitations of the technology right away.

By contrast, take a look at this 2012 Corning video titled “A Day Made of Glass 2: Same Day. Expanded Corning Vision”. Sure, the future tech in the Corning video is probably still some way away in our future but the interfaces are far more fluid and portable.

Jamboard looks terrific. I like the design and I am very curious about it’s capabilities and whether it can support remote teams. At the same time it seems a lot like the enterprise Google Goggles of 2016/2017. It feels very much like an intermediary technology designed to test real-life use cases and inform the design of the next thing.

On the other hand, just look at Microsoft’s latest release: Surface Studio. Isn’t this even closer to Microsoft’s own vision of our future tech? Leaving aside that the Surface studio looks a lot like a really big iPad or slimmer iMac, I love the interfaces in this video:

Realising these future tech visions will probably require big steps forward in high-bandwidth data availability; ubiquitous and smarter interfaces along with a new generation of highly capable and multi-modal devices.

I have little doubt this is on our horizon and both products like Jamboard and Surface Studio, along with visions from the likes of Corning and Microsoft are really exciting peeks of what may lie ahead for us.


No more device guilt

I came across this article on People (it was a search result, ok?!) titled “Jennifer Garner: Why I’m Not on Twitter or Instagram” about why Jennifer Garner doesn’t have Twitter or Instagram profiles and one of her reasons is really interesting:

One, I don’t want any more guilt coming from my phone or computer. I have the hardest time answering emails, anyway, so the last thing I want to feel is indebted to my phone or computer. So it’s time.

I know a few people who are tempted to delete their social profiles entirely and just open a post box somewhere. That isn’t really an option for me but I do often feel the need for fewer notifications, things to check and more analogue sanity.

On a related note, Radiohead’s latest publicity move has captured some people’s imaginations:

Could you just delete your digital presence?

Image credit: Pexels

Applications Devices

No more support for WhatsApp on BlackBerry

I just spent a few minutes going through some recent feeds and saw this post on the WhatsApp blog titled “WhatsApp support for mobile devices” with this notice:

So, by the end of 2016, we will be ending support for WhatsApp Messenger on the following mobile platforms:

  • BlackBerry, including BlackBerry 10
  • Nokia S40
  • Nokia Symbian S60
  • Android 2.1 and Android 2.2
  • Windows Phone 7.1

That is pretty interesting. I wonder how much this will impact already dropping BlackBerry user figures? BBM doesn’t seem to have quite as much traction as WhatsApp (not much does) and with WhatsApp support falling away for BlackBerry devices during the course of this year, I can see even more people switching away from BlackBerry devices.

I did a little digging online and, according to Wikipedia, BBM had about 190 million users in 2015. Earlier this month The Verge reported that WhatsApp had over a billion users. Facebook Messenger doesn’t seem to support BlackBerry directly either, except perhaps through a mobile Web interface?

Bottom line for BlackBerry users is that 2016 is the year to make a decision between a new device or an unsupported version of WhatsApp (if WhatsApp will continue to work?).

WhatsApp logo credit: WhatsApp

People Semantic Web Social Web

Antisocial media

I’ve had a recurring theme in my life the last week or so and it is pretty ironic considering much of the last week was spent at (and participating in) a social media conference: with all the social/digital devices and services we have available to us, we are remarkably antisocial.

We talk about social all the time. We have dozens of apps organised into folders (or their equivalents) which enable us to share virtually everything we experience in our lives and yet we seem to spend more time with out heads down and staring at our devices instead of actually speaking to and engaging with people around us. It took me a while to realise that a voice phone call is frequently far more effective than a text message, even with carefully chosen emoticons.

Our Chief Rabbi recently launched an initiative called The Shabbos Project which invites Jews to keep the Sabbath of 11 October completely. This means complete observance of all the rules. It appeals to me because it requires us to totally switch off for about 24 hours. No phones, TV, Internet, light switches, driving, shopping, working and just about anything we usually do day to day. It means 24 hours of family, friends and community with no artificial distractions. I’m not sure if we will do it but it appeals to me nevertheless because it would force us to really be present and fully engaged with each other. We’ll play board games instead of iPad games; play outdoors instead of watching TV and talk to each other for more than 5 minutes.

On the other hand, our digital tools enable us to share ideas, knowledge and experiences with each other really easily. I subscribe to dozens of feeds which include interviews with designers, photographers and other creative people who tend to talk about deeply meaningful interactions. Inspiration bubbles up through my RSS and activity streams and I often find myself thinking that some recently technologies like FaceTime and Hangouts bring more humanity to previously impersonal text-based interactions. All my books are on my iPad (I haven’t activated a paper book for a while now, although I believe I don’t need to recharge my paper books if I do access them again). If you are in my limited sharing groups on Facebook or Google+, that is pretty much the only way to will get to see photos of our kids.

Taking this a step further, when I think about Twitter, one thing that bugs me is the hashtag even though I use hashtags in virtually all my tweets. The hashtag is not exactly the epitome of human friendly references online and tweets with several hashtags and @-mentions look pretty much like indecipherable code if you are not already familiar with the nomenclature. On the other hand, Google recently adopted hashtags but did so with some pretty smart systems behind the scenes which extract key themes and create hashtags for posts which can be used to track memes across Google+. This allows you to publish a jargon free post and have Google+ identify the key themes and trends and create hashtags which add a system-wide semantic layer to the Web.

So what is the problem here? The question came up over lunch the other day and when my lunch companion raised the issue of many devices and little resulting and proportionate human engagement, I suggested that a solution isn’t necessarily to ditch all our gear and become the equivalent of Amish (although the idea that the Amish shun technology seems to be somewhat incorrect). Instead, we need to learn to use our technology more appropriately and when it supports our activities. What we do now is allow ourselves to become totally absorbed in our technology and what it allows us to do, at the expense of our personal interactions. A classic example is a group of people having a meal together and everyone is interacting with friends and followers in different parts of the world using their phones and yet no-one at the table is speaking to each other all that much.

We should make a point of putting our devices home when we arrive home from work so we can catch up with our partners in person and play with our kids rather than simply transporting our little digital bubble home and ignoring the people who (should) mean more to us. We should attend conferences and focus more on the speaker than what everyone in the room is tweeting about as the speaker speaks (guilty as charged). How about coming across a spectacular landscape and pausing to just take it in, instead of peering at it through our phone’s camera viewfinder and spending 20 minutes picking the perfect Instagram filter?

What we sorely need is a healthy dose of perspective blended with recognition that our 5/6 senses create richer and more valuable experiences than messages, comments on an Instagram photo and jokes in our Facebook News Feed. Our digital interactions are largely antisocial, not because they are inherently antisocial but because we are becoming progressively less engaged, socially involved and present. We are pretty self-involved these days and no-one seems to notice that much.