Thursday, August 26, 2010

Is the world ready for an Fphone

Last week Facebook launched it’s newest feature (in the US only at the moment) called “Places”. Clearly a shot across the bow of the growing upstart foursquare which has been gaining steady growth of users and has so far failed to secure a trademark on the notion of “Checking in”.

Facebook Places is an interesting but logical shift as the social network makes it’s first move towards the physical world. It is also the first step which really brings facebook into the mobile space and effectively opens up there application platform to Geo-social, Geo-spatial and location based services. The revamped API now exposes the “social graph” of it’s users to applications and devices that are authorized to use it. The well defined schema provides an interesting infrastructure to design a well integrated mobile experience.

Facebook is reported to have a community of around 500 million users and as such certainly represents a very key social fabric on the web. Given all of this I wonder if will start to see the notion of a facebook themed mobile device that provides the best mobile experience for interacting with that platform. Today facebook has been relegated to being an app which doesn’t make it a totally seamless experience to set status, post pictures and now expose your location on a mobile device. As a service Facebook exposes a really nice set of integrated social interaction tools which support subtly different ways to connect with friends and family.

I am not so sure I would to see an Fphone being developed in the same guise as the Gphone from Google but it might be an interesting as a future feature phone concept. What do others think?

Friday, August 6, 2010

Geocommunities - It’s a Social thing

Social has been the big thing over the last few years, Social media and Social networks springing up all over the place and bringing people and their together. Staying connected, hanging with your tribe, digital snacking are old and new behaviors that these networks have created and foster. Facebook is the dominant one, at least in North America and boast a large and growing user based. Delivering a mobile device without a good facebook and twitter client will invoke the wrath of the reviewers and the bloggers. New services appear that try to exploit a new facet of online social behavior but have one single driver, the community they are able to attract and from this one revenue source, advertising..

Perhaps it might be time to take a fresh look at the whole social network/media space, my personal take on this area offers a more holistic view which is segmented along the dimensions of time and space. These are dimensions which create both the basis and opportunity for humans to socialize and where digital media can enhance the social interaction. Using this model it is easy to see where existing social tools focus and where the whitespace is. The following diagram maps out the social model..


The dimensions shown above bisect the temporal and spatial boundaries of social interaction.

  • Same Time/ Different Place: This is clearly an area where technology has had significant impact. The ability to make the spatial divide disappear has been the main focus of telepresence, and conferencing technologies. The first technology was of course the telephone but we now see Halo rooms and mobile Apps that deliver an real-time AV experience for remote groups along with chat and IM programs all of which assume a same-time interaction model.
  • Different Time/Different Place: This has been the domain of messaging and mail oriented technologies. The immediacy of the interaction is not important but the information in the interaction is of great importance. In recent time the web has service to democratize information across the time and space divides and things like this blog also fall into this kind of social interaction.
  • Same Time/Same Place: Some people may think that this was just what existed before we had technology. But I feel this is actually an area where there is space to innovate. This innovations comes from the use of social media and also social commerce (more on this later)
  • Different Time/Same Place: This one might be harder to imagine but most physical bulletin boards fall into this category, even graffiti speaks to this dimension. More recently with things like geo-tagging and location based services there have been grass roots efforts to enable the place to play a role in social interactions independent of time.

Technology has clearly influenced the nature of social interactions in certain areas of the map above. However I would say the most of the effort has been placed along top row where the spatial divide is dominant. The thing that has driven this has been the natural human desire to maintain connectedness even when being away from the people they wish to connect with. What’s interesting is that typically what is going on is sharing. Connections are maintained through sharing information with a community of interest. Posting something on facebook is  only desirable if there is a large community of people (friends) to read and comment on it. This desire to share, to discuss, to recommend to provide advice and commentary would seem to be universal.

Perhaps what is missing from the lower row in the figure above where it is the time domain that changing rather than the place is the notion of community. Perhaps if there was a way to capture the community at a place irrespective of time that would enable similar social sharing and social media to occur as it does in the more traditional distance based online communities.

I am going to define the communities that address the social needs in the lower row of the figure above a Geocommunities. The community exists because of the place rather than a URL. We all belong to Geocommunities as we move around and spend time in other locations. Sometimes we are surrounded by people we know and sometimes by strangers or a mix. In either case the Geocommunity can act as a means of sharing, for example

  • Sharing of Media: Visiting a friends home and displaying images of your vacation while on their TV. Printing a recipe on there printer, or simply exchanging a URI they should see.
  • Sharing of behavior: Ever turned on a computer in a location and been confused about which network access point to connect to, or which printer to use, or where most people eat. This is community information that be shared (anonymously) and used to create a better experience

There are some applications that do some of the above but nothing on the scale of online social networks. The area is mosly untapped and it would seem that linking the communities that exist in the physical world with the ones the we belong to in the virtual world would extend the richness of applications and services and enable new social interactions and behaviors to develop.


It would seem to me that geocommunities and the support that would need to surround them would most logically come from a mobile solution company. Clearly in any place oriented solution the mobile device is a key component as it would be the instrument through which sharing is enabled and the lens through which spatial information would be discovered.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Context Matters

The nature of pervasive computing implies mobile, always on and in general ambient. At a recent meet-up in Palo Alto hosted at the Ubiquitous Media Studio the conversation centered a lot on sensory enhancement and control and I have always thought in human terms pervasive computing would be very much like a sixth sense. Today computing is attentive and task driven the ideas behind pervasive computing drive more towards an ambient model providing enhancement and augmentation to the way live work and play will pull on many area and require new paradigms and create new behaviors. The goal to provide experiences that are in the moment and related to the situation and needs, rather than a human response to an event.

There is some glue that is required in order to pull this all together and I keep coming back to “context” being a keep enabler. The ability of a system to understand, react and even predict context will enable the automation and delivery of in the moment experiences. Today that most people believe the Context is merely about location and the use of GPS coordinates to fix a physical position into which relevant services can be delivered. It is true that GPS is a extremely good example of Context but I don’t feel it is enough and to move beyond simply location based solutions we have to examine a richer model of context.

I view context as a set of dimensions onto which solutions are mapped, ability to pull information from those dimensions that matter to its function. I have identified 3 core dimensions

  1. Personal Context: This is perhaps best defined as “your stuff” it is what represents the human, which is composed identity or persona and the digital artifacts, data and services that are associated with that persona.
  2. Physical Context: This is closely related to location but is more than this, since it includes the artifacts and services that are around you. This might be physical objects or unseen virtual elements rooted in the place you currently exist
  3. Social Context: This is the current social group that is around you or are connected to. It is a real-time notion of community and could be made up of both friends and strangers.

Providing windows onto these dimensions will allow pervasive solution to draw information necessary create an experience which is relevant to the situation. There is another dimension which is time. Time affects the physical and social context more than the personal since the former are changing on a second by second basis. The constant changes in these dimensions may enable distinct patterns of activity to be determined and further exploited. The notion of digital diaries is not new and neither is the fact humans are creatures of habit, both of these can factor into supporting predictions of future situations which might increase to performance and efficiency of a system to react or prepare to a future tense.



The may be an aspiration goal and perhaps socially scary but would be a glue to supporting a computing model that is more attentive to us, rather than the other way around.

Monday, June 7, 2010

MeeGo First Impressions

MeeGo Logo

It isn't often I plug the efforts of the company i work for but in the case of MeeGo I feel justified. I have been continually swapping operating systems on my two netbooks and have run the gamut of Windows (too big and slow), Chromium (too basic) and Jolicloud. The latter had been my staple go to operating system as it offered a good mix of reliability, speed and breadth of applications. I had also tinkered with Moblin but found it to be too unstable and this was my worry when I found myself downloading the MeeGo image and and burning it onto a USB stick. To my surprise what I ended up with was a very nice netbook interface which is lightening fast on my EeePC 1000HA and comes with a nice basic set of applications and hopefully more on the way. Many of the trouble spots i found with Moblin such as the ability to hang onto a network connection were gone and the system boots fast, the GUI is responsive and as such this has become (even in such a early state) my primary netbook OS.

Obviously it lacks a few things, including a broad set of applications but I assume that things can only get better, here. I had to work (harder than necessary) to an MP3 decoder up and running but other than that this is a very promising start.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Ipad my first 24 hours

My first 24 hours with my iPad 3G under the belt and so I figured i should probably provide my initial impressions. You mileage may differ....This was my initial experience.

The out of the box experience was disappointing, I opened the box peeled off all the protective skins and pressed the power button. The device sprang to life and commanded me to connect it to iTunes. I have to wonder why such a connected device needs to be tethered to breath it's first breath. i duly connected it and nothing happened. Nothing at all!. I concluded that perhaps iTunes needed an upgrade and this was so. About 30mins and two restarts later my new iPad was connected, filled out a few forms and we were synchronizing. Then i realized it was copying all my iPhone apps. Sure enough when I finally managed to untether it and start to play, I spent another hour removing all the apps that just did not belong on the iPad. Sorry apple, compared to the Kindle the out of box experience of the iPad was a bad one for me.

Playing around with the device I was impressed with the speed and responsiveness of the UI. Love that you can orient the device any way you want. Text entry is ok, the virtual keyboard is adequate but not sufficient to do real work and the typing position isn't ideal. Drawing is really finger painting, the control is minimal and the drawing apps I brought down had created controls (mainly sliders) that required ant sized fingers to select and move. I gave up. Perhaps adding a pen support might have been a good idea if this was an important design center for this device. I haven't tried the dictation or voice oriented applications which might help the input restrictions but there is something about talking to a screen that feels wrong. Talking to a phone is where I draw the line.

So basically this is a big iPod touch and this is the point, it really shines with applications that need that extra display surface to add punch. This means the experience of most consumption based apps that are available for both devices have been improved. Where the iPad really shines (and I think the design center) is book reading. Clearly this is the new commercial addition to the Itunes paid media family and this device was made for iBook. I was also surprised to find that the Kindle App worked very well too. Sans battery life this might be the Kindle killer. i can see the potential for better quality ebooks and ones that exploit more media and even context (see an earlier post).

Really wish it had a camera and better in the moment sharing facilities with the iPhone. Try sharing an image (given there is no camera on the iPad) the amazing Bump app doesn't work on the iPad the only shared service that works is iTunes which mean devices have to tethered to a specific itunes instance or possibly through iLife.In the end I found two essential apps if you the reader are stuck. iPad camera is very cool it connects the iPhone (iPad-touch) camera to the iPad as a remote device but falls short if you want to share images already capture on the iPhone. A second app was required to share captured images, the one I found was Pic-Z-Share.

So in summary, great consumption device, will banish my kindle to the drawer, and an average social device. Want to see a camera and possibly some kind of pen support or better drawing experience and more peer connectivity with other devices. And can we finally get away from the incessant tethering for these highly connected devices. The iPad is not an ambient device even though it is highly connected it is not the device I wont leave at home. it serves a thin vertical within my digital lifestyle, a convenient a capable media consumption device but I will be interested to see how future products and applications change this initial take

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Aster Ln,Cupertino,United States

Monday, January 11, 2010

Immersive Media

In the last decade we saw the explosion of social media, in this decade I wonder if the time has come for Immersive media. At the recent CES (I wasn't there but read the press reports and blogs) it was clear that the Z axis was as important as X and Y given the amount of 3D technology being rolled out and it can't be long before depth cameras are commonplace on computing devices to give depth to gesture interfaces. Another popular subject at CES seemed to be the mass digitization of the written word into various e-book devices and services was quite apparent.

And it was the latter that started me thinking about Immersive media and what it might mean in the context of traditional media such as books. We have had Imax and wrap around cinemas for many years, and Virtual reality simulators all of which cost large amounts of money. In a little while I will have 3D content on the small screen in my home as long as I want to make a negative fashion statement and wear glasses. Digitizing books seems ok to me, making a them more portable and the sales experience more direct. But what if the experience could be more immersive?

In a digital book there is more opportunity for interaction, more opportunity for secondary media streams (e.g audio) that can make things more real and engaging. As can be seen in this CNET interview at CES with Ray Kurzweil

CNET: Ray Kurzweil on the future of reading

The Blio platform seems very interesting and will certain will have the potential for authors to make books more engaging and interactive. I can imagine two key opportunities emerging, augmenting existing art and new purpose authored content for such a platform.

So if platforms like Blio are almost here, what else might be done. Well what is the book could reach out into the environment/context of the reader and cause actions to occur. For example what if the cookery book can control aspects of the kitchen. With knowledge of inventory it could suggest recipes, and instead of asking you to pre-heat the over it could do it for you and maintain cooking time and optimum temperature.  Such things might be the next enhancement for immersive media and further blur the physical and virtual worlds.