I can remember my first bulky personal digital assistant (PDA). It was cumbersome, hard to use and ugly. Very ugly. But I loved it. It felt like a ripple in the fabric of the future.
While at university, I took notes on this PDA, scrambling to jot bullet points into the slim LED screen and save them before we moved onto the next subject. Sometimes it worked, and sometimes I lost whole lectures when the AA batteries failed. But even then I realised that there was serious value in being able to search through lecture notes on-the-fly.
And then along came the Palm Pilot. I thought the handwriting recognition was a breakthrough. As I skimmed my stylus across the plastic screen I really felt that I was experiencing another of those ripples in the fabric of the future. It was the right device at the right time – a bridge between my analog and digital worlds. But it wasn’t just a PDA, it was a phone too. And it was changing the world.
With each new innovation, the barriers between me and my device would evaporate. They became easier to use, smarter, friendlier – and dare I say it – more human. Each iteration would be less about the device and more about the experience. My experience. It was like the technology was disappearing before my eyes.
Recently, when Siri came along, we celebrated as if the world had turned on its side. Apple had somehow, again, not only innovated on top of its already innovative iPhone platform – they trumped themselves and changed our relationship with the technology. Now you didn’t even need to swipe and type, you could speak. You could ask questions.
And we all loved Siri. But, for me, Siri was a constant reminder that I was using a device. A particular device. It called out my own reliance on that device and its manufacturer – for always in the background, there was that awareness that the experience was being delivered only by Apple. In many ways, Siri wasn’t just a ripple in the fabric of the future, it was the rock that caused the splash.
But Google’s Glass project fascinates me – partly because it is literally transparent.
As you can see from this video, it’s freshly intuitive – and that’s saying something considering Google’s usually clunky interfaces. But the thing that excites me most is the way that experience – human experience – is front and centre. For decades, technology has drawn us away from the body and focused our minds on the screen. But here, we are celebrating, not the technology, but the body in action. It’s technology taking a back seat. It’s the always on Kodak moment.
And its the closest we’ve yet seen to the future.
At least until the next ripple.