1. What is it about
Suppose you are driving and suddenly see a nice mountain far away in the background. You and your partner are curious to know what it is called. It stands out from the environment, so it must be well known. You both are now curious to know if it is worthy of a visit. But you want to make a decision before getting to the next junction, you probably have to turn at some point to get off your main route and go visit it. Your partner simply activates your Location Based Information Delivery Device and gets to annotate your environment with names. The device shows you the names of the main features of the environment overlaid on a 3D map of the world around you. You can then get extra information such as height of the mountain and its history (derived from sites such as Wikipedia). You can also get a list of businesses around the area to get a feel for what the place stands for. All of this takes places in a space of 45 seconds. You still have time to decide if you want to go and re-plan your journey to the new destination which is as easy as tapping on the mountain to get your route planner re-plan your journey.
This is not long term future. This is about to happen very soon. Such information delivery devices will become critical part of everyday life for many people, just as mobile phones have become today.
2. Where is the fun
- Being able to connect your information delivery device to a head mounted display or a virtual retinal display to overlay all that information on the real world will be an amazing experience. Imagine while you are walking in a shopping centre, you bump into your friend. The camera attached to you can detect the face of your friend and recognize her. The device will then automatically pull information relevant to her and will display them for you. For example, it will show your tasks related to her that you assigned to yourself a few days ago. Now you remember instantly what to ask her or to mention something. You can use the same feature when you go to a critical meeting where you need to have a check list in front of you or dynamic information so that you can make split second decisions. The difference between such a display device and monitors is that relevant data to an entity can be shown next to that entity and can be easier to consume. There is no doubt that we will need to deal with more information in the future, so any mechanism that can help us reduce the clutter and increase efficiency is valuable.
3. What are its Applications
A future mobile phone with high bandwidth capability will let you get streaming information when you are on the move. Combine this with the ability to know where you are and you may get many applications. For example:
- While driving, you may get historical information streamed in audio format for the landmarks you are passing by.
- Based on the latest traffic information, dynamically re-plan your route. This can be calculated based on road traffic patterns (such as Beat the Traffic, in some cities available on Google Maps), latest road works and up to the minute traffic data collected from CCTV cameras, mobile phones or similar devices.
- Get latest weather (for the place you are and the place you are going to), news in audio and visual formats, events, festivals and everything else that you may like to know about the place.
- Rich set of information about the shops and places you are passing by. The system can give you dynamic user reviews, latest events, prices, customer satisfaction ratings, special offers and so on. Before you get to your hotel, you may already know which restaurant you want to go to and what part of the city has the buzz you are looking for.
4. How developed is it
Development effort in this technology is very active as a series of major corporations around the planet understand the potential for this type of products. Certain devices (such as iPhone, Windows Mobile, Nokia and Samsung) are already becoming mainstream that resemble the first generation of information delivery devices. The next generation is going to take the concept closer to ‘any information, anywhere, anytime’ format which people are eager to get their hands on.
5. How can it be improved
The biggest challenge with this technology is to get an appropriate amount of information from credible sources at the right time without overloading the user with lots of complicated user interface steps. The amount of available information is bound to increase as both access and content is increased and there will always be more information available that can be consumed. The system should pick the most appropriate information, based on your personal preference, your historical interest in different topics and the context you are in and feed the aggregated data to you. Getting this right is not an easy task and this will need sustained effort on many fronts such as data-archiving, artificial intelligence, voice recognition, personalisation, search, dynamic content production and consumption, with the information being available in the smallest long lasting devices ever possible.
Life-logging devices used by just about anyone in the future will add a substantial amount of data to the net which will only increase the need to make sense of this data intelligently and be able to organise it, search it and deliver it in suitable formats. Artificial intelligence will be a critical field to support this technology.
6. What does it lead to
As more people start to have access to information when they are mobile, others get to follow suit in a competitive way. For example, a shop may put up an offer to attract customers to come in. They may post a message on their website. While you are out, you may use your device to scan the shopping centre for all available offers and rush to this particular shop to get the bargains, along with other items that you may pay full price for. But at least you manage to know what is offer is available and you can go for it. Someone who doesn’t have this device won’t have access to this type of dynamic information and is at a disadvantage. History shows that humans are very competitive, so you may easily expect that such devices will become very popular to a point that you may feel naked without them just as you may feel as a tourist without a camera.
Due to sheer amount of available information, it will become necessary to create sophisticated personalised filtering systems that pull only those information that you are interested in. If you are looking to rent a new place, on your journey to the supermarket and back, you may come across several places up for rent where you can quickly explore or dismiss as you see fit. You can setup your device to Rent Filter, which shows you only the information that you decided is relevant for your search, such as rent process, student or professional, nearest supermarkets, crime rates, demography and so on. There is no point to clutter your display with historical events of World War 2, or the latest program offered by the local night club.