Last week I was asked to predict what I think will happen in the IT marketplace in 2010. I think next year will deliver more robustness in some areas, experimenting with new ideas but not in a production sense in others, while continuing to maintaining a tight reign on budgets. In other words, the same incremental journey we undertake to develop “industrial strength” mission critical applications. The areas of focus are gradually changing as specific solutions and technologies become mainstream. Some will be leaders and many will be followers.
However, the most exciting aspect of being part of the IT industry (long term) has been the rate at which change and innovation has occurred, and all the wonderful new things we get to learn on the way. What captures my imagination are the new opportunities that emerge for the deployment of technology in our life (not just the workplace). As I mentioned in my last blog, I was excited when we were able to start a computer by pushing a button. It saved time. Many of the early advanced were enhancing speed and complexity of programs and were applied to basic processes.
Today, technology is truly the enabler and our imagination is the constrainer of its use. Research and the amazing talent that quietly works away at truly creative activity is the cornerstone of the IT future. The other day I was reading “Cruiser and PhoTable” the PhD thesis undertaken by a friend of mine Dr Trent Apted (yes he got his doctorate).
The full title of the thesis is “Cruiser and PhoTable: Exploring TabletopUser Interface Software for Digital Photograph Sharing and Story Capture” which brings together three pieces of technology and blends them into a social network construct. All four ideas were not even on the radar when I started in IT. Think about it – tabletop interfaces, digital photos, voice recognition and social networking.
A portion of his abstract gives an insight into the “enabling” opportunities the research offers:
This thesis presents PhoTable, a social interface allowing people to effectively share, and tell stories about, recently taken, unsorted digital photographs around an interactive tabletop. In addition, the computer-arbitrated digital interaction allows PhoTable to capture the stories told, and associate them as audio metadata to the appropriate photographs. By leveraging the tabletop interface and providing a highly usable and natural interaction we can enable users to become immersed in their social interaction, telling stories about their photographs, and allow the computer interaction to occur as a side-effect of the social interaction. Correlating the computer interaction with the corresponding audio allows PhoTable to annotate an automatically created digital photo album with audible stories, which may then be archived. These stories remain useful for future sharing – both collocated sharing and remote (e.g. via the Internet) – and also provide a personal memento both of the event depicted in the photograph (e.g. as a reminder) and of the enjoyable photo sharing experience at the tabletop.
Please note that Trent’s full thesis is available on-line at The Sydney eScholarship Repository.
I love this sort of thinking, as it also fires my imagination to think of other “applications” the concept could support. Because my current work has a focus on business intelligence and data warehousing solutions, I thought, why not replace the digital photos with BI reports? They are digital objects too. They could even be updated dynamically by the underlying application if the people sharing analytic insight wanted to undertake the “what if” scenarios (which they can do now at the computer) and the “stories” captured become the report analysis (or meeting notes). I expect this sort of “meeting” could be highly productive.
And so might many other business applications of a technology enabler designed for recreation. Just as recreation activities have conversely been the beneficiary. Research in one area always leads to development in many others. Who would have thought of microchips in cars? Getting the fuel consumption, distance to empty and the outside temperature while I’m driving – not just my speed, fuel levels, torque and air con (up-market cars) seem passé these days but not in the 1980s. Where will Trent’s research contribution take us?