Sunday, October 14, 2012

A Technology I Would Create....

This week, we were asked to come up with a new technology that we would create. Key concepts which have influenced our collective thinking over the last 3 weeks are: Mobility, technology landscape, augmented reality, meta-data, transmedia, digital community, digital citizen, narrative, story arc, and connectedness. With these concepts in mind, a new technology I would create is a transmedia, multi-instance, holographic (TMMIH) avatar – aka “Timmi”.  Here's how it would work:
To set up my Timmi, I use my smartphone camera to take a picture of my face, straight-on, and a picture of each side of my face. The software in my phone renders a 3-D holographic image of my head. Next, I record a few sentences of carefully-picked words to capture most of my phonemes, and intonations. Like Apple’s SIRI, my phone is “listening” to my voice as I speak and develops a library of sounds so that my body-less avatar, over a very short time-span, sounds just like me. Alternatively, I could pick from a catalog of pre-created cartoon characters or movie characters to be my avatar in their own voices (a great licensing opportunity for movie producers and owners of cartoon character trademarks such as Foghorn Leghorn, Yosemite Sam, Elmer Fudd, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Buzz Lightyear, and…..oh yeah, Felix the Cat!). One of my colleagues suggested this week that we often have a voice in our heads that talks to us, and we're consequently surprised when we hear our actual voices because it doesn't sound like the voice in our heads! 
Once Timmi is set up, it's deployable to act as my "assistant" as well as my representative. As my assistant, when I get an e-mail, a text, or other message (e.g., Facebook message, Twitter feed), or want to search for something, Timmi comes alive on the retina display of my device (cell phone, tablet, PC, or windshield heads-up display) and speaks the information to me in my own voice (or the cartoon character’s voice). This is not a big technological leap from where we are today. For instance, I can speak into my iPhone and ask SIRI (or some other information services proxy) for almost any kind of information, and after a short search, SIRI will speak the information back to me, in the proxy’s voice. When I initiate a search for a retail location, a product, or a service, Timmi can come alive read aloud to me any meta-data associated with my search or location, as well. An instance of Timmi is always available on my cell phone’s retina display,  so when I get into my car, the Bluetooth registration process "pulls" my avatar into the heads-up display in my windshield. Without taking my eyes off the road, I can command Timmi to speak information to me – messages, search results, and meta-data.
As my representative, I can “push” an instance of Timmi to a friend’s smartphone - just like is done with a "v-card", today. When my friend gets a message from me, such as text, e-mail, Facebook message or Twitter feed, an instance of my Timmi appears on the retina display of his/her phone, reads my message, in the appropriate voice - mine or my chosen character's. Further, if my friend calls me and I can’t answer my phone, my Timmi pops up on their phone to tell them I’m unavailable and asks them to leave a message. Additionally, Timmi will ask my friend to pick a medium of choice for a response. My Timmi can appear on whatever device my friend is using, whether a cellphone,tablet, PC or heads-up display on their windshield. My Timmi is only in their display long enough to deliver the message, and then disappears. Their own personal Timmi is available as their assistant, waiting for the next command or prompt. I can have as many instances of my personal Timmi as I have friends with smart devices! Likewise, as many of my friends’ Timmis as I want, can reside on my electronic apparatuses of choice. Many of the asynchronous capabilities we have today are enhanced by a more personal (or comedic) representation of "us".
The reason this new technology (or rather this new adaptation of several combined technologies) is compelling to me is that it gives us the capability to do many of the messaging and retrieval functions we do with social media today with just our voices and our eyes, and the extension of those two senses through multiple agents in the digital domain. Activities like texting-while-driving become a thing of the past. The extension of our capabilities through the ether represents us the way we want to be represented, and we have the potential to gain back some of the amputations brought on by the current explosion of social media, such as expression, intonation, and many of the nuances of meta-data that can’t be adequately conveyed through letters, numbers, and emoticons on a 2-dimensional screen. That said, one of the amputations we get is a further separation of the personal self from relationships that deal with the “agent” self. We may have stored most of our intonations and expressions in Timmi, but Timmi can never really convey that reaction of surprise, of wonder, of deep sorrow, or empathy.
In my estimation, the chances of getting this innovaton to market are good, since most of the constituent piece parts already exist. For instance, the technology to push and pull information to and from devices exists with our ability to "bump" mobile phones and exchange contact information. We can also push information to our list of “friends” via a Twitter or Facebook posting. Likewise, the technology exists today to render a 3D hologram from a series of multi-view 2-dimensional pictures or diagrams. Agent software is in use today where a software proxy for the user is available to retrieve or display information without the active, synchronous participation of the user. As well, text-to-speech and speech-to-text software algorithms are in use today in a variety of applications. Heads-up displays have been used in military applications for a number of years and are just beginning to be seen in commercial applications – not the least of which are automobile windshields displaying dashboard metrics for the driver. What is required? The computational capabilities at the device level (cell phone, touch pad, laptop, etc.) – and according to Moore’s Law*, that problem is very soon solved.
As a media psychologist, there is a plethora of opportunities available in the space of convergent media technologies. Basic questions of affectation need to be answered in areas such as: education, productivity and the workplace, marketing and advertising, social behavior,  relationships, cognitive skills, and the story and story-teller in each of us. Beyond these basic questions there lies a whole array of 2nd- and 3rd-order cause-and-effect questions. Perhaps the unintended consequence of Moore’s Law is that with the price-performance of computing quadrupling every 18 months, the psycho-social implications of computational capabilities do, as well.

*For those unfamiliar with Moore’s Law, in 1965, Gordon Moore, one of the co-founders of Intel, postulated that the capabilities of computation (processing speed, memory capacity, pixel density, etc.) would double every 18 months and that the cost of any given technology would halve every 18 months (due to manufacturing capabilities and scale, and integrated circuit efficiencies). Doing the math, “two divided by one half”, the notion of a quadrupling of the price-performance of computation every 18 months was described by Moore in his 1965 paper, Cramming more components onto integrated circuits.
Isbout, Jean-Pierre; Ohler, Jason (2011).  From Aristotle to augmented reality. The Oxford Handbook of Media Psychology, (Karen Dill, Ed.).
Moore's Law, retrieved from's_law

Ohler, Jason (2010). Digital community, digital citizen. California, US. Corwin.

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