The Next Technology

There have been changes where one technology replaces the previous technology. I believe that I have seen a vision of the next technology, and I'd like to share it with you. But first some history.

Radio Killed Vaudeville

It is easy to forget that, back in the days of vaudeville, that is, before radio, if you wanted to experience a play or concert, you had to get dressed up, go out, drive somewhere, and go inside some sort of theater. This was inconvenient. When radio came along, people could stay home in their underwear and listen to shows.

Television Killed Radio

Radio was wonderful. You could experience it in the privacy of your own home. But there was one big drawback - nothing to watch. Vaudelille, even talking movies, offered you something to see as well as something to hear. When that radio box in the living room was replaced by a television box in the living room, radio died.

Color TV Killed Black And White TV

I remember the first color television I ever saw. It is at a rich kid's house in the hills above my town. It was grainy, but it was colored. For some reason, although color TV supplanted black and white TV, we don't think of it as a revolution. All in all it was pretty much the same experience.

The World Wide Web Killed Broadcast Television

In 1987 my co-worker Lauranne Dayton was talking about this wonderful new thing. It was named something like "AppleCard". It ran on Mac Computers. You could open a file, and see the basic "card". it had text and links. Click on a link, and it took you to a differend card on that computer. Back then it didn't seem so much. But given the existing global internet of named computers, add the computer name to the link, and call each card a "page", and you have the world wide web. This was SIX YEARS before CERN invented the world wide web. Darned! If I had been paying attention to Lauranne, we could have had a patent on the WWW!

I look at my family today, and I can see that the world wide web has killed broadcast television. Why? Because of selective demand. With broadcast television you get your choice of a dozen different shows being broadcast right now on a dozen channels. With the world wide web, you get your choice of a million videos on Youtube, available whenever you want them. As a child, I and my friends used to sit around and watch the Saturday morning cartoons; today my son and his friends go to Youtube and watch any cartoon they like any time they want to.

The Next Technology

So what will replace the World Wide Web? Or, phrased differently, what is the next technology that will build on the Web and obsolete what we see today? Today I have a vision; that vision is: Google Glasses.

The trouble with the existing world wide web is that you have to stop what you're doing to watch it. If you're in a chair watching Youtube, you can't be in the kitchen cooking. If you've got a tablet tied to Facebook, you can't be driving a motorcycle. The existing World Wide Web is great entertainment, but it is isolated from the rest of your life by the visual and mental attention it demands. Your hands can't steer when you're twittering.

I see the next technology as akin to Google Glasses. Maybe it will be a pair of glasses with a tiny screen; maybe it will be a headset with video projected directly onto your eyeball. Maybe it wil be a helmet with Internet communications painted directly onto your brain. There may be several steps of technique here. But the main thrust is in the diretion of making the world wide web a new appendage of your mind. Not one to substitute for your eye or ear or hand, but a new one to extend you in a new direction.

My son Chris is a professional games designer. He is exploring the potentials of virtual reality headsets. Recently we have combined the concept of a virtual reality headset (screen and sound) with a head-mounted camera. Throw in Wifi and Skype, and two people half the world apart can share an experience. Imagine using this headset to attend your granddaughter's birthday party. Imagine experiencing New Orleans through the eyes of your sister. Let the US commander in Iraq virtually attend a meeting of the generals in the Pentagon.

Your comments are welcome. <>