Ubiquitous computing

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Websites in the future will not be as we know them today since the concept of the Internet itself will change towards the concept of ubiquitous computing and existential media will be absorbed into the eudaemonic space of the user (wearer). In fact, people will not even think of the Internet as a separate “space”, but as an integral part of their lives and to which they are always connected and interacting. Just as people now take electricity and telecommunications for granted, people will do the same with the Internet. Changes to the websites will be fueled by technological advances, so a brief introduction to these enabling technologies is warranted.

The future of the Internet will be dominated by wireless connections(WiFi will be replaced by WiMAX (802.16) that supports VoIP and has a rate of 268Mbps – compared to WiFi (802.11b)at 11Mbps!) so that people are always connected, anytime, anywhere.

Thanks to nanotechnology, computers under 1 cubic centimeter are embedded in wristwatches , jewelry, and even woven into clothing. There is no longer a need to sit down at a computer or use some sort of device. Real “techies” have a computer embedded under their skin. Since nano-computers are brain-like devices, it can not only process information, but also trigger sensation when embedded under the skin and someone is touching a piece of clothing in an online store.

People can “see” the Internet via holograms and/or eyewear with homographic modeling that double as monitors so that total interactivity is easier and less cumbersome (no clunky gloves, visors, or cords as with current virtual reality systems). Websites are not static but are real spaces with people with whom you converse and interact. Online shopping is suddenly very much like going to a bricks-and-mortar supermarket (minus the trip in the car and annoying crowds and queues) as you take items off shelves, put them in your shopping cart, and check out with a clerk – items are always in stock and things are easy to find.

Chat rooms, message boards, blogs, email, and instant messenging are suddenly replaced by virtual interactions as you “talk” to people thanks to advancements in continuous speech voice recognition applications -- and since you can see facial expressions, it is a much richer means of communication than text alone. Everything is voice activated, including all computer commands.

You will no longer need to remember a myriad of usernames and passwords (unless you purposely want anonymity) but instead use biometric identification (such as using a combination of face, voice, iris, and fingerprint recognition). This means more transactional websites with higher user confidence in the security of their transactions.

Even design and art have taken to the digital world as special “smart” chips allow your brain to directly interact with technology – allowing you to move a virtual paintbrush or pen. Museums and other such institutions can all be experienced in a virtual space which has the capacity to display more colors than a computer screen and allow for 3-D viewing. If you want to, you can be guided through the exhibit by the artist himself and ask questions to the artist, the curator, or even other visitors.

Work spaces are now completely virtual as well since people now only work in service and knowledge industries – everything else has been automated. Education as well has gone completely online. Research has become easier as you browse through virtual libraries. By simply speaking the name of a subject, potential resources from ancient manuscripts, books, periodicals, film, music, and subject-matter experts are displayed in visually mapped search results. Exploring these visual paths has replaced surfing. You can be alerted when certain events happen – such as a stock price dropping below a certain level (and then you can automatically sell it online), when your child is home safely from their day at the park (through an automated nanny system at your house), or when the latest Dior handbag has hit the online boutique.

And everything inanimate (smart appliances) has wireless connections (your home has its own wireless local area network or WLAN) so it can “talk” to you and all the other devices. The refrigerator lets you know that it has just ordered another liter of milk from the online grocery store that will be delivered tomorrow morning. The coffee machine asks you if you want your usual cappuccino when you get up at 8:00 tomorrow morning. Television, radio, CDs, DVDs, and movie theatres no longer exist. They are all available online with a single voice command. In fact, you can gather in a virtual space with your friends to watch and discuss a movie.

1. eudaemonic: the apparatus is subsumed into the "eudaemonic space" [Mann97] of the wearer (e.g. it may be worn, or otherwise situated in a manner that makes it part of what the user considers "himsef" or "herself", and in a manner that others also regard it as part of the user, e.g. not a separate object being carried by the user). It is sufficient that the interface be eudaemonic (e.g. some of the compute power can be remote); 2. existential: the apparatus is controlled by the wearer. This control need not require conscious thought, but the locus of control must be such that it is entirely within the wearer's domain (e.g. that it behave as an extension of the body). The functionality of the apparatus must also be potentially known to the user (e.g. although the user may not have the time or ability to completely understand its inner workings, the apparatus must not be built to deliberately obscure or hide its functionality). Furthermore, the apparatus provides the wearer with the ability to make its operation completely private and secure when desired. In addition to the obvious privacy afforded by its eudaemonic nature (e.g. securely attached to the body so that it might be less likely to be stolen when working in close quarters with adversaries), the output can be made private when desired by, for example, using a screen that cannot be read by others looking over the wearer's shoulder (Smart Clothing: The “Wearable Computer” and “Wear Cam” (MIT))

Wearable & Ubiquitous Computing Links

Wearable Computing Meets Ubiquitous Computing (MIT Media Lab)

Vismod Research Projects at MIT

Technology: Ready to Wear

Smart Clothing: The “Wearable Computer” and Wear Cam (MIT)

Affective Wearables (MIT)

Nanotechnology Links

Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology

Foresight Institute: Preparing for Nanotechnology

--- Kelly Pender