There was Miss Cleo on late-night infomercials, claiming heritage from the Caribbean to pay-phone listeners like inmates making their last call from prison, dropping their last dime of hope. “caal me now mon 4 yah free tarot readin”
There was the first long Island medium, John Edwards, “Crossing Over” with Dr. Oz in 2011. Then the second long island medium, Theresa Caputo with loud hair, snapping chewing gum, contacting the dead of loved ones in pre-taped TV audiences who desperately needed closure of old wounds, unfinished business.
But by 2020, analysts predict there will be 25 billion connected devices talking to each other, more than 50% of which will be TVs, cars and wearable computers. And at the center of this machine 2 machine bickering will be mobile phones.
According to Qualcomm, humans will be able displace the so-called 6th sense of these medium personalities claiming to “see dead people” with LTE Direct technology, a discovery engine made by Qualcomm. Harnessing the internet of things into a ‘digital sixth sense’, it combines Bluetooth and beacon technology into an SDK framework, to empower next-generation mobile apps to push relevant notifications and actions.
For example, I walk into my house. My smartphone sniffs out all my connected appliances and a domino effect of events would occur – from optimal temperature to favorite TV programming to hot water pouring in the tub. With always-on awareness of friends, promos based on one’s location, one’s natural senses will extend beyond the primary five: sight, touch, taste, sound, and smell. I can see the invisible. Coincidence will not be left to luck. The rigid lines between digital and physical will materially liquefy, dissipate into big data in real time. The right information to the right place to the right people.
In this era of the long tail wagging the dog of distribution, content is king. However, McLuhan’s hypothesis was that the impact of the medium itself takes priority over the content it supports. Each medium, from chairs to cars to phones, conveys a message to its users. The internet, for example, isn’t remarkable because of its endless score of content, but because it heightened our expectations for content to be infinite and instantly accessible. It is an extension of human consciousness.
Therefore, the humanization of technology will be a crucial component in the age of connected things. The mediums will expand beyond TV and mobile devices into appliances, clothing, sneakers, walls, and street lights, changing the way we interact with objects and the meaning/message they import. More than enhance or displace something, true innovation returns us to something we have lost. David Rose, MIT designer, argues that the age of connected things will free us from the confines of the glass slab. In a Time article he writes, “The Apple watch is a glass slab trying to do too much.”
What if there was a web we could wear, so that we become the medium and the message, our humanity?
Pranav Mistry, Global VP of Research at Samsung, started a company called SixthSense, 6 years ago answering that very question. With colored finger caps, a pocket projector, a mirror and a camera, SixthSense liberates pixels from the glass slab model. No phone, no mouse. Yet one can bring part of the physical world to the digital and vice versa. For example, if there is a beautiful rustic landscape before one’s eyes, rather than summon a camera from a purse, one can form their hands in the gesture of a film director framing a shot and take a photo. Then, browse a media library and project that photo on the wall with finger gestures or even use their palm as the surface.
T.E. Lawrence once said “All men dream but not equally.”
Mobile screens have reached their unit limit. They cannot get smaller.
The message is clear, no matter the medium.
We must dream human again by making computing more human.