Category Archives: future

The future is already here, it’s just not worth distributing yet

kodak cam

In 1975, Steve Sasson of Kodak invented the first portable digital camera.

It was a camera that didn’t use any film to capture still images – a camera that would capture images using a CCD imager and digitize the captured scene and store the digital info on a standard cassette. It took 23 seconds to record the digitized image to the cassette. The image was viewed by removing the cassette from the camera and placing it in a custom playback device. This playback device incorporated a cassette reader and a specially built frame store. This custom frame store received the data from the tape, interpolated the 100 captured lines to 400 lines, and generated a standard NTSC video signal, which was then sent to a television set.

kodak cam 2

After taking a few pictures of the attendees at the meeting and displaying them on the TV set in the room, the questions started coming. Why would anyone ever want to view his or her pictures on a TV? How would you store these images? What does an electronic photo album look like? When would this type of approach be available to the consumer? Although we attempted to address the last question by applying Moore’s law to our architecture (15 to 20 years to reach the consumer), we had no idea how to answer these or the many other challenges that were suggested by this approach

They pitched it to the executives at Kodak as a “film-less camera”. Ouch. Talk about trying to sell the future of meteors to the dinosaurs. I’m sure many of you have been in that position before in your careers.

In any case, it took many many more years and advances in several other fields (personal computers, and most critically the consumer internet to share and display those pictures) before digital cameras could become a killer app.

The implication is that there could be lots of the future around us already. It’s just bottled up in variously ridiculous gadgets just awaiting a few more cycles of Moores Law and a few unexpected missing ingredients to become some future decade’s killer app. Imagining the future can sometimes be an exercise not in imagining inventions. The inventions could be here already. The leap is in imagining the catalysts, the future pains, the missing ingredients that will make those inventions fly.

This idea was at the heart of last year’s DemoCamp2019. It’s soon time to think about DemoCamp2020. Probably in November. So if you think you can think of the killer apps of 20 years hence, start thinking about it.

Presentation: Design for an Augment Reality world

For posterity here is the slideshare version of my Augmented Reality talk, which I presented for the first time at Refresh Events in Toronto. As a first cut, this presentation represented more of a shotgun scattershot rather than a linearly coherent narrative of the various thoughts on this topic currently spinning in my head my these days.

For background this was the talk proposal. I think I got to most of this stuff.

How “Augmented Reality” and the mobile web changes everything

Mobile broadband access and ever-smarter phones are shaking the internet out its lofty cloud and bringing the web into the real world. As a result, the old “real world”, and many old ideas and many old business models will be running out of places to hide from the pervasive influence of the net.

Meanwhile, each of our smart phones are in many ways even better than the old clunky tools we used to use to surf the net. Our mobile devices are not only connected but, also bristling with sensors like radios, cameras, microphones, GPS etc. that can directly perceive and interact with the world around you. We’re reaching a point where it’s theoretically possible to point that device at almost anything: a landmark, a product on a store shelf, your friends or a crowd of people; and draw from the cloud and your social graph as much, or perhaps more, relevant information than you ever wanted to know. Oh, and the cloud will be watching you and whatever’s around you as well.

In the new augmented reality, the web surfs you.

The goal of this talk will be to provide you with a fast paced overview of what this new “augmented” reality will mean for how we socialize, for how we sell and market physical products, for architecture, for media and entertainment, for public policy, crime, privacy and, as well, few early signals for what might be the new killer apps.

If all that is not interesting enough, I will also bring free beer.

How did it go? I think it went well! thanks for all the wonderful twitter feedback. 100+ tweets and counting =)

wrongbutton @tpurves fantastic presentation! very thought-provoking. especially enjoyed social AR consideration and the notion of layering data sets

BrianSe7en @tpurves great job on the AR deck! somebody who “gets it”.. yeah!

danielpatricio @tpurves Great job on the presentation, it really inspired me and got me thinking. there is a lot of potential in our future

randymatheson @tpurves – inspiring presentation on Augmented Reality tonight at #refreshevents , a balanced look at what is coming in the next few years

sebchorney @tpurves Great job. Real value for me was the “example->implication” flow, and high-level summations/analyses/insights in your tables.

D_Hock Great #RefreshEvents tonight – seeing the crowd engaged by @tpurves‘ talk was truly fascinating.

malcolmbastien @tpurves Awesome talk. It’s clear you know your stuff and have done some deep thinking of its broad impacts.

nitchblog Amazing debate to end the night. Great discussions that brought us around the world and back! Thanks to @jkozuch + @tpurves #refreshevents

davefleet @tpurves is wielding a NFC phone. Love the potential with that technology #refreshevents

pinkbrickroad @tpurves so interesting/funny. Future is crazy. #refreshevents

josephdee @tpurves presentation has been kick-ass so far. Peeks into the future of mobile experience, which is making me grin : ) #refreshevents

AdamSchwabe I love hearing @tpurves talk tech. So intelligent and focused. Fast, well-read. #RefreshEvents

I look forward to presenting again the next revision. Contact or DM me if you’d like me to lead/present this discussion at a future event. Meanwhile enjoy:

Link: Audio track of my presentation (video coming they say)

How the mobile web and “augmented reality” changes retail forever


At South by southwest interactive this week (SXSW) a huge theme was “augmented reality” the idea of, Amazon-app style, pointing your phone at any product to get more information -or a better price- online. We’re getting to a world where holding a mobile device means all of the potential knowledge and intelligence of the cloud is now in your hand as well, everywhere you go. “The web” is no longer separate place or channel we go to visit at home through our computers. The web and the real world are rapidly converging. It’s now just up to us to design the apps, and interactions to make that useful.

What was clear is that brands have a long way to go yet to figure out what to do with or what retailing models will work in this new “augmented” reality. Consumers may beat the brands at the game using their devices and information advantage to arbitrage themselves consistently better deals.

To compete as a retailer, someone mentioned the idea that physical stores just become “really expensive websites” that help brands build relationship with consumers seamlessly across both physical and virtual channels.

This is a problem for retailing models like malls, which typically take a slice of retailer sales. Now the interests of retail merchants and their landlords may be mis-aligned as a consumer may go to the apple store just to see and touch the product, make use of the genius bar, but then spend their money on apple through the internet channel, or post-sale through itunes etc.

It’s another problem of misaligned interests for merchants if physical retailers are franchises that don’t have piece of the revenues from online sales.

Apple (no surprise) is a good example of a merchant that will do well do well in the hybrid cross-channel retailing environment.

Some other merchants that compete just on product and price without specific competitive advantages are going to get killed.

Apparently no one really wants to reboot their socks

Bruce sterling used to regale us with stories of ubicomp that one day everything would be connected and aware. Computation everywhere “in the morning I won’t have to look for my shoes, I’ll just google them”. It’s been argued (I’ve argued it) that, one day, even your socks will have IP addresses. Of course, the more complicated technology gets the more ways it can be brittle (rebooted your blackberry yet today?).

Anyway, fast forward to the trough of disillusionment, and a funny post today from uber-hacker Julian Bleeker:

Seriously. Anytime I hear the alpha futurist-y featurists get all excited about some kind of idea for how the new ubicomp networked world will be so much more simpler and seamless and bug-free, I want to punch someone in the eye. They sound like a 5 year old who whines that they want a pink pony for their birthday. Ferchrissake.

Apparently, in the ubicomp future, we should look forward to force-quitting and reboot our socks a lot.

enjoy: Ubicomp is like a 5 year old wishing for a pink pony