Where is freedimensional?

You’ve probably read about Google Latitude, and maybe even used it yourself. I’ve been using it mostly without meaning to, because I activated the service on my N95’s Google Maps and the bloody thing never turns off. Here’s where I am right now:



Locative technologies are a growing area of interest for me. I believe that GPS, cell-tower triangulation and even good old Bluetooth will play a large part in making cloud-computing extra-relevant to consumers.

I know that people get a bit funny with the blend of real locations and virtual space (see Google Street View debacle) but once we’re all using our next-gen pieces of UI, your networked device could begin to act as a portal to new layers of information useful to you about the city, street, or shop you are in.

I am talking about location-based advertising. An implementational nightmare, but it is foreseeable that Semantic technologies could serve geographically relevant messages, charging advertisers on a cost per impact basis. Google kind of do this with their local search results. It’s a bit shit at the moment though.

The nearest we have to the kind of next-gen solution I’m thinking of is lastminute.com’s free service NRU, available on the Android OS. It lets you scan around your environment with your phone acting as a viewfinder, where cinemas, restaurants and theatres are overlaid in a sonar-like interface. These services pay a small amount to lastminute.com on an affiliate basis, or are paid inclusions:

NRU for Android, from lastminute on the G1

There’s one locative service I’m disappointed never took off in the UK, despite being around for a while. BrightKite is a kind of location-based Twitter, and it had real promise until Google came stomping all over them with the release of Latitude.

If I were to ‘check in’ at The Queens Larder on Russell Square, BrightKite users would see my marker and message on a map of the area, as well as other people checked in nearby. The potential for social interaction is high, because through using the service one feels proximity with other users.

With all this in mind, I’d like my readers to ‘feel closer’ to me, so as well as in this post I’ll be placing my Latitude Location Badge on my Contact Page. If you’re in the vicinity, go ahead and either serve me an advert or say hello. I won’t mind which.

There Should Be More Robots on TV

This is incredible. Just when I thought I had a grip of current robot development, the Japanese blow my mind with this piece of raw awesomeness:

It is so difficult to keep pace with the Far East on the technology front, but I am very interested in at least progressing research into the potential for branded robotics, androids & cybernetics if any readers have thoughts?

How I Feel About AR Right Now

I found this video clip which does well to sum up my current opinion on marker-based Augmented Reality, which seems to be breaking into the mainstream via desktop applications and fixed webcams:


Me too (doing some AR stuff)! from Anatoly Zenkov on Vimeo.

You’ve seen it around the office – someone prints out a marker and everyone huddles around the only computer with a webcam. Anatoly Zenkov has noticed it too, and he wants you to realise that all you’re really looking at is a static 3D image overlaid on a piece of paper. Nothing culture-shifting about that now is there?

Let me be among the first of the dissenters:
There is far more to AR than barcodes and webcams.

There are thousands of helpful & exciting uses for the technology. Think past ‘tethered’ AR experiences and consider what good Mobile AR can do with GPS and with markerless tracking. Endless potential lies that way. I assure you, the future is far brighter than we think.

Where I initially believed that the Advertising and Entertainment industries would drive innovation and push AR into popular consiousness (they are currently doing so), I now believe that good AR (as distinct from any old AR) will be driven by paid applications on next-gen handsets.

I think I’ll serialise posts about the best applications for Augmented Reality over the coming weeks. Why not subscribe now to hear about it first? You know it makes sense.

Microsoft’s Vision for the Future

Microsoft have released a new video suggesting they seek to reposition themselves over the next decade. I think they are on to something:

Their vision for the future is evidently very ambitious, but I believe that if anyone can pull this off, it’s them.

Microsoft’s approach has always been to create user experiences that are improved through exclusive use of Microsoft products. Sure, it’s got them in a  lot of trouble in the past, but it’s their corporate power and knowledge of how technologies (especially theirs) can work together that will best service the user through Ubiquitous Computing and Augmented Reality.

What’s especially interesting to me is that they really seem to have thought past their next release, Surface. It’s great to see something of their overall strategy. Something Apple, Google & Yahoo! are far less forthcoming with.

We are soon to have a Surface installed in the lobby at work. Really looking forward to it, but I’m concerned it’ll be too prescriptive in what it can be  used for. If Surface and any of the featured technologies in the above video suffer the marketing / usability failures of Vista it’ll be years more until these tools become a reality, at the hands of their competitors.

Will feedback on Surface once I’ve had a hands-on.

Introducing… Ubiquity

Very exciting semantic technology for Firefox, that susses out what you are trying to do, and does it for you!

The below video, though highly stylised, is a great indication of our next steps towards Web 3.0, and onwards towards ubiquitous computing in the academic sense, that of interrelating processor-equipped devices/clothing/pens/kitchens etc that share and translate information to improve or simplify our lives.

We’ll need years of research to teach your jacket to stream your favourite album when it notices you’ve been sad lately, but Mozilla have at least made small steps towards mind/machine connectedness by removing a few of those quirks from the internet’s core product – email.

Ubiquity for Firefox from Aza Raskin on Vimeo.