Amber Case, the co-founder of Geoloqi.com and a cyborg anthropologist (cool!), talked about ambient location and the future of interfaces for Sunday’s keynote at South by Southwest.
Case said that using your smartphone all the time makes you a cyborg. She said we’re creating walls of information (if printed out) via Facebook, which she said is similar to what the ancient Egyptians did, but we’re not archiving the way they did.
“All of this is hanging there in mid-air or in the cloud somewhere” as opposed to carved into stone. She said we all become paleontologists in a way because we’re digging through content (think of searching through your email) to find information.
She said we also have “information jetlag” because we interact on Twitter, with text messages and emails, etc. “When you put this all together, you kind of panic,” she said, showing off a screen grab of her inbox with more than 20,000 unread emails after her TED talk last year.
“Every time I look for what the future, I look to a research institution that has a lot of funding and time,” she said. She talked about Steve Mann, an inventor who was one of the pioneers of augmented reality. He created a heads-up glasses display years ago that took video of the world around him and then allowed him to alter it (in his case to make billboards and other advertisement say whatever he wants the to say. He also used a “Twiddler” to type.
He also used “computer-mediated reality” for facial recognition and history so he could remember names (something I could use).
“It took a very long time to reach everyone’s pockets, but it is not yet heads-up displays,” Case said. “It was really expensive and difficult to use” until recently, she said.
She said Flipboard makes her happy because it’s a “superhuman interface.” - it reduces the time it takes to get to the information.
She also showed off a massage vest, which you wear and as someone plays a video game, it causes you to get a massage. I think this might save some marriages.
She talked about Calm Technology, which was looked into in the 1970s by Xerox PARC in California. The idea is that your natural actions become input. As an example, she talked about the Haptic compass belt. You wear it, and it buzzes in the direction of North. What do you do with this? It helps you get around, and it gives you a new sense of direction without looking at a map. If you hook it into GPS, it can buzz you which way to go when you need to turn. “It’s compressing a video into another sense. It shouldn’t be in the visual space.”
The ambient location part of her speech was about getting use out of your phone without spending time staring at your phone all day.
As an example, she said her co-founder was capturing his location and speed every 5 seconds of every day for quite a while using GPS. What can you do with it? Case said you could leave a message in places, and when you get to that place, you get the message (sounds like Siri’s notifications system). You could put a “geofence” around the house, so when you get home, your lights turn on because your phone tells you that you’re home. “The phone becomes a remote control for reality,” she said.
Another use, she said is to have your phone tell you when you’re at your bus stop and when to get off. “That sort of thing - where you’re using this in the background so you help your life and you don’t have so much intensity in life by staring at a screen all your life.”
She talked about an app created as an experiment in Portland that knows when you’re waiting at a bus station and buzzes you to tell you when the next bus will be there. Another gives you all the Wikipedia articles around you as you walk through a city. The interface is set up to behind the scenes, so you don’t have to think about loading the app and asking it questions, like Google. Instead, it just know when you’re at a cool spot and pushes it to your phone.
What keeps all this tech from reaching the mainstream? Battery drain, she said. When you use location-based apps, the battery dies quickly. Another problem is there are several platforms, and it’s hard to develop for several platforms.
She said the next generation of location is in the background, doing things to help you and the above problems would be solved. So she created Geoloqi to try to solve the core problems.
She announced they are partnering with three companies to make this happen.
* Appcelerator - They have a toolkit for developers and 1.5 million users.
* Factual - She said you need context and data, and Factual has 60 million data points around the world.
* Locaid - They have access to 350 million devices in their network.
“The best technology gets out of your way and let’s you live your life.”