Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The Story of Joe

This is a description of some thoughts I've had on the future of computing. Just ramblings, perhaps, but the possibility is arising to build something like this and address several problems that are emerging now.


On The Train
Joe steps onto his morning train for the hour commute to his office. He’s meeting clients later and felt the need for a face to face meeting with his staff before the client meeting. He finds a seat on the train with a table. The table has a SPACE terminal built into its top. Joe’s lucky to get one. This means he won’t have to use his handheld Pad’s smaller screen the whole way into the office like yesterday.

He logs in through the fingerprint login interface. A moment later he sees his SPACE emerge on the tabletop. The NewsSPACE he was watching on the wallscreen before he left the house is still running. CNN indicates the market will be up today.

Joe’s re-opens his personal MailSPACE and a keyboard on the SPACE terminal. He finishes the email to his friends in Europe, then sends it off. Their itinerary had arrived overnight and Joe had dropped it this morning into his TimeSPACE for coordination with his and his wife’s schedules. He wants to be sure he and his wife have plenty of PTO blocked out during the visit.

Joe notices CNN receding. He must be past the halfway point in his journey. He configured his SPACE to shift emphasis from personal SubSPACEs to office SubSPACEs over the course of his trip. SPACE is aware of his terminal’s location, so it begins zooming out of his personal area and into his business area.

Joe slides his fingers over the oleophobic tabletop and SPACE scrolls beneath it until he sees his wife’s shared SPACE. He selects the MessageSPACE and sees his wife look up from her desk at home as the link is connected. She smiles into the camera and says, “Hey! What’s the sitch?”

“Just wanted to say Happy Anniversary. I’ll meet you tonight for dinner.”

“Still not going to tell me where?”

“No, just follow your pad. SPACE’ll get you there. It’ll probably recommend a cab though.”

“Ok, Mr. Mystery”, she says smiling. “I’ll see you wherever there is!” She blows him a kiss and he scrolls back to his SPACE, severing the link.

CNN and his personal MailSPACE are just small tokens now. The OfficeSPACE is showing fully zoomed in and he sees he has a few messages in his office MailSPACE. He looks at these and answers one, flagging the others for later attention.

That done and with another 20 minutes still left in his trip, he calls up the AdSPACE to review today’s presentation. Joe is a Designer and Producer of Adaptive Marketing Campaigns. His latest client wants a comprehensive AMC for their new line of personal SPACE terminals. The line includes pads, sunglasses, audio-only players, and phones. The demographic is 10-25 year olds but subdivided into more than 250 specialized and overlapping sets.

Adaptive Marketing Campaigns are all about communicating with the buyer, delivering the right message about the right product at exactly the right time. Joe and his team design the overall campaign, calling upon graphic designers for the specialized artwork, statisticians for the market data, psychological modelers to build the campaign logic and campaign planners to manage the timing and deployment of the campaign materials.

One wrinkle in the planning is that this client wants to drive the campaign to static media like old fashioned billboards and magazines as well as the more usual media for such a campaign such as mall screens, web-, pod-, and phone-casting, e-books and -zines, and product placement in games and movies. Joe’s team had to pull together a single, coherent piece of collateral for each of the vendor’s products and then, of course, the collective collateral such as the Catalogs, SPACEStore, E-mailings, Opt-ins and the like.

Today’s meeting is to present the single piece of collateral that will drive paper-based posters, billboards, as well as the interactive MallScreen, SPACEStore and Pad formats. Of course, they all look very similar, except where the interactive semantics cut in providing user interface elements on the piece. And the client wants to know the status of extending the collateral piece to include audio-only delivery and interaction. In particular, Joe’s group has to come up with the semantics of marketing the sunglasses with builtin phone and media player to a sub-group that only receives voice. That has been tricky to design, but his team has it nailed, Joe is sure.

The collateral piece opens up in front of Joe on the SPACE terminal. He decides to leave it there as he is in a seat with his back to a wall and the SPACE terminal’s security features will keep anyone outside of a very narrow field of view from seeing the sensitive ad. Otherwise he would tell SPACE to use his Pad’s display while he interacted with the table-based terminal’s SPACE.

He reviews the layout and the logic metadata. The project requires that the collateral piece have some very specialized logic, but it is all declarative and Joe is an expert at interweaving complex logical requirements such as specifying the context in which an online deployment should solicit user input and when it should not.

Joe notices a minor issue with the Information Delivery Object for the new multi-media player the client is marketing and dictates a short annotation into his Pad. The words are transcribed and appear as a typed annotation attached to the object. Mike can fix the glitch in short order.

By now, most of Joe’s personal SPACE has faded into small icons while his office SPACE has taken more and more prominence on the terminal display. He is nearly at his stop only a few blocks from the office.

Suddenly, a larger alert flashes into his vision on the edge of the SPACE. It is a press release that his company has just announced an acquisition. Joe flicks his gaze across the table to his CNN feed and notes that it is growing in prominence again, coming into the foreground. The crawl at the bottom of the CNN feed carries generic information about the acquisition. Joe taps the CNN feed subSPACE and it begins to zoom out again.

He notes, however, that his MailSPACE has a new item in it and when he selects it, it is, as expected, a reminder that employees are blocked form trading for the day of the announcement.

The trains pulls into his stop and Joe logs out from the SPACE terminal in front of him. He leaves the train and walks to his coffee shop. This has been his favorite coffee house for the last six months. He switched from the huge, international coffee house chain, despite the fact they have better coffee…but they haven’t got SPACE yet.

In the Cafe
Joe sits at a table and the logo clears and he sees the café’s menu glowing just beneath the surface. Pressing a selection on the touch sensitive screen, he enters his pin code on the keypad that appears to his left and the table transmits his order to the kitchen and his payment to the bank.

The store and his table both recognized him as he entered the cafe based on the PAN card in his phone. The PAN card passed his identity to the store which guided him and handed him over to the table as he sat down. The store and the table negotiated the context of Joe’s appearance and settled, semantically, on the fact that he was probably in for coffee and a bit of SPACE. The naïve bayesian engine the store runs to help establish context noticed that Joe has done this regularly for 6 months…the calculation of his next probable action in the store was a fairly simplistic one.

The menu clears once Joe has ordered and he logs into his SPACE again. Everything looks just as it did on the train, scaled slightly to take advantage of the larger tabletop display. The fonts are slightly smaller size, as the table adjusts from the train’s accommodation for Joe’s presbyopia. Since he turned 40, he prefers slightly larger reading fonts. On the train SPACE deduced that Joe’s displays needed to have the font sized up. Here on the larger and higher resolution café terminal, SPACE correctly calculates the font sizing as being just a bit lower to achieve the same result.

When Joe first came into the café, 6 months ago the café’s SPACE always brought up his usual configurations. Calendar on his upper right, his Map in the center with all his work and personal objects, and his daughter’s SPACE on the left zoomed out just enough so he could see her latest drawing, while not occupying too much room.

A few months later he had a hiking accident that left his right arm in a sling for a while. The first time he came in after the accident, the café recognized him, of course and when he had sat down, it had brought up the new style configuration. He had granted his SPACE access to his medical records 2 years ago. The semantic metadata attached to them was sufficient for the café reasoner to determine that an alternative configuration would most likely be needed. His view into his daughter’s SPACE was now at the top of his SPACE, and his objects and navigators were shifted to the left a bit. All access controls were distributed around his left hand’s typical position.

As Joe began to use his right arm again over the course of two weeks, SPACE adapted and shifted more of the controls back to the right hand access positions Joe usually used. Now, SPACE has brought up Joe’s favored interface, a MAP, because he is not in a moving train that would cause issues with navigation.

Joe navigates through his MAP quickly, using the virtual navigator control widget that SPACE brought up in easy reach of his left hand.. Joe’s MAP is a 3d simulation of a city street with his personal objects on the left and his workflows on the right. Joe prefers abstract representations of information, so his Information Delivery Objects (what would once have been files) are depicted as variations of shapes and colors where the combinations have meaning to Joe.

He enjoys navigating his MAP. It provides him access to the web, connections both real-time and latent to his friends and colleagues, and he can turn a corner and follow an alley into someone else’s SPACE like his partner’s or his wife’s. And always the representation of information in his SPACE, or in others’ is manipulated to make sense to the way Joe prefers to see things.

Joe selects the CNN Feed and reads more details about the acquisition as he sips his coffee. He has a bit of time before needing to be in the office.

A blue ball appears in Joe’s SPACE suddenly, accompanied by a short phrase of music. This customized PANtone indicates to him that his business partner has just entered the periphery of Joe’s SPACE. Sure enough, when he looks up and behind him at the door, Joe sees his partner, Amy entering the café. He motions her to his table, but she doesn’t see him. She pulls her phone out as it alerts her that she and Joe’s SPACE are overlapping, and the phone’s display shows an arrow pointing toward Joe’s table. She glances that way and waves, slipping the phone back into her purse.

Amy walks over to Joe’s table. He stands and moves to the other side. His SPACE promptly spins itself around on the table display and re-positions itself for his new orientation. As Amy sits, her half of the table pulls up a display of the menu and she orders her triple decaf upside down latte, then logs into SPACE.

Her half of the table reconfigures it’s display to show her SPACE, but conjoins to Joes at the midline. After all, SPACE is SPACE. Amy, however, is not as abstract in her representations and her MAP contains fairly traditional lists of IDOs described in textual fashion.

“We have an hour to the presentation, Joe. Are you set?”
“Yes, but let’s review it a bit.”

Joe navigates in his MAP down his 3d street to the IDO that represents their presentation to a new client. He touches it and slides it with his left hand over toward Amy’s side of SPACE. As it approaches her, the object flips around to become right side up with respect to her and dynamically changes it appearance to conform to Amy’s manner of representation. It docs itself in the workflow area of her MAP.

At the same time, Joe’s and Amy’s objects both open so they can see the presentation. Of course, the presentation format is fixed since they need to manipulate what the client will see, not their own personal preferences for information presentations.

Amy says, “Let’s just view it. I’ll let you make any changes.”

Joe takes Amy through the presentation, pointing out the new logic he added on the train and the issue he’s left for Mike to deal with. “I annotated it. He’ll probably have it fixed before we walk in.”

After about 15 minutes, they finish their drinks which they’ve been setting on the oleophobic surface of the table. As they move the cups around, SPACE detects the presence of real-world objects and reconfigures itself to allow virtual coasters to appear under the drinks. These cover SPACE objects as necessary, but disappear when the cup is lifted or follow it around when the cup is moved. This prevents the cups from triggering any interactions with the display glowing under the surface.

Oleophobic coatings on touch screens means that displays which are almost all touch devices now don’t take up fingerprints or body oil, and do not become smudged. The light sensing tables also correct for brightness and position, their OLED display surface brightening as needed. Even when the barista drags a table outside, SPACE reconfigures it for optimum viewing of the information delivery objects. The objects, in turn, reconfigure themselves as needed. One of the more enjoyable things to watch is when a large group of business colleagues show up for lunch and pull tables together. SPACE objects determine what is happening from the semantics and context of the environment and reconfigure the tables into one long, continuous SPACE. Even the check gets divvied up into a set of IDOs, one for each person, with payments extracted from the correct accounts and receipts deposited into each person’s personal SPACE for future needs.

Amy and Joe finish their coffees and get up to walk on to the office. As they leave, SPACE automatically logs both of them out and returns the display to the coffee house’s logo.

At the Office
Amy and Joe wander down to their office building and pass through security. Their Pads act as security cards and they pass through unimpeded.

Joe walks to his office and as soon as he steps in, his SPACE terminal, a large 32 inch vertical display on his desk, lights up as his Pad links with his office. The SPACE looks just as he left it in the coffee house.

Amy has gone into her office and the same thing has happened except her SPACE terminal is built into her desktop. Joe says he prefers the old fashioned desktop with a monitor on it because it’s easier for him to navigate his 3D worldview.

Amy, on the other hand, uses the horizontal interfaces so much in her work as a designer, that she prefers those. Her desk is also at standing height and she rarely uses her chair.

After dropping their personal belongings, they both head out for the conference room where the client will arrive in 15 minutes. Amy’s Pad beeps as she exits, however, reminding her she left it on the desk. The office recognized htat she had exited through the door and notified her Pad which concluded she needed to be reminded to take it along.

She steps back inside, grabs it and walks out. Her desk-based SPACE terminal had already quiesced and darkened and had not started up again when she came back in.

In the conference room she saw that Joe had already called up the collateral on the big 100 inch screen at the end of the table. Mike was there as well and the two men were looking at the display in SPACE terminals built into the conference table.

The two men looked at their respective copies of the collateral object. Joe said, “This looks pretty good, but I’ve got a concern. You’ve got the rich content up here on the left, and the form elements on the bottom. But from the view I have, the form elements are too small…will they scale?”

“Oops”, said Mike. “I forgot to tag them correctly. Hang on.” He selected the form elements at the bottom and altered their properties to be “Human Scaled”. The form entry elements expanded on the display, causing the graphic content and the copy to resize.

“There.” Now, whatever size we publish to, the form elements will be scaled for a person to use. I also marked them as “Discardable” for devices that can’t handle input won’t display them. That’s very simple with SOA, now”. The Info Object Server just queries the device capabilities after a request for object is made and only the part of the object that works on that device goes across the net.

On the large screen, the interactive form elements appear, but now they are sized for someone to use who just walks up to them.

Amy says, “Let’s get the print going. We want it to be finishing just as they arrive.”

Joe nods. Amy opens SPACE on her side of the conference table and drags the collateral object to the conference room printer’s SPACE. The wide format, printer starts printing the paper poster version of the collateral.

The client arrives and the meeting begins. The three campaign designers and the three people from the client are all automatically accepted into the Conference Room’s SPACE and allocated display space on the conference table. Joe has reserved the vertical screen display at the end of the table for a presentation display of the collateral and the campaign. However, the bottom half of the ;large screen is reserved for video conferencing with the two client reps that could not attend in person.

Bob, one of the client reps, pulls out a phone and uses it to tell the SPACE to dial the New York and Dallas offices, using information in his contacts list. The bottom part of the screen lights up with the video conferencing of the two absent attendees.

The screen sits directly on the conference table and the other two participants are looking at a siilar screen/table combination. The video conferencing images split vertically so that each of the participants appears to be sitting on either side of an identical table that stretches through the screen.

Using contextual sensors in all the conference rooms and sophisticated, real time image processing algorithms, SPACE derives the appropriate coloring, lighting, and angles to make the video conferencing seem as real as possible. It also automatically builds an identical image of the presentation at each of the remote ends.

Joe and Amy and Mike proceed to layout their campaign strategy, showing real demos of how the campaign object will operate in its variety of target SPACEs. Amy peels the printed version of the collateral off the wide format printer they keep for the purpose and, as the piece de resistance, pulls a black box about the size of a small desktop printer from behind a screen.

“This will print the souvenir in the stores. We’ve added a CAD component to the object that will drive this fabricator. It will produce either a ring or a key fob in the shape of the kid’s version of the terminal. Non-functional, of course, but you’ll only print as many of the fobs as you actually give away, so there’s no waste.”

“Will people have a choice of color and fit?”

“Yes, the kiosk we set up will scan the finger and ask for a color choice. The fabber has the ability to jet out 24 million colors.

“Excellent. Well, we are satisfied. When will the first roll-out begin?”

“In another week. The finishing touches have been done. We are just waiting for your team’s launch date to come up. It’s already in the workflow with an auto launch date and time. The first components hit the Far East at 6am on the 19th,m then it automatically processes west around the globe. The last localized deployment will be at 6am in Honolulu the same day. “

“The translations are all done?”

“Yes, we outsource those by just allowing our translation services to acces the content. The system alters the layout for the graphic alphabets like Chinese and Thai. The RTL alphabets use slightly different layouts, but the system calculates them based on the logic and rules I specified.”

“Can we see one of those? The Thai, perhaps?”

“Sure.” Joe moved his hands over the CollaborationSpace he had open in fornt of him, specifed that Thai should be selected and caused the landscape web version to be recreated. He then touched the border frame around the result and flicked his hand toward the client.

The SPACE tereminal took the window he had gestured with and sailed it across the table from his SPACE into his client’s. It inverted the object as it did so, making sure it landed in the proper orientation for its new viewer. Thai lettering glowed on the background in the colors chosen for their cultural significance. The artwork and all designated static content was there, but the message was clear to an aware reader. This product was aimed directly at Thai consumers with their particular tastes.

Shortly thereafter, the meeting adjourned. Joe and Amy and Mike talked a bit more, Joe laying out some last minute declarative logic in the object they were all looking at and Amy changing the color just a fraction in the Japanese layout logic. Once completed, they walked out of the conference room. SPACE gently closed all there different accesses and the room went dark.

After Work
Janet walks out of her office and hails a cab. She has already received an alert on her office terminal telling her she needs to leave for dinner. Joe moved the dinner appointment reference from his SPACE into her TimeSPACE. The semantics of that appointment object have linked with her schedule and GPS-location and downloaded a set of navigation instructions to her pad.

Her pad, its small screen currently filled with her NavSPACE, simply says “Use Cab”. She could if she wanted to scroll forward through the directions now showing on her pad to see the final destination address, but she doesn’t know what restaurant is there anyway, so she doesn’t bother. Let Joe surprise her, she thinks.

Once in a cab, her pad syncs with the navigation system in the cab and the driver receivs both the destination address and instructions on how to get there. Of course, many cab drivers still elect to follow their own best known routes. They feel their experience and knowledge of traffic patterns would always result in shorter trip times. This despite several studies showing the opposite was true. Janet doesn’t worry about this though. This driver seems content to follow instructions from the nav system in the car.

Her pad, having handed context off to the cab, now zooms through NavSPACE to take her back to the memo she had been crafting in her office in her TextSPACE. But before she continues the memo, Janet scrolls her SPACE to her shared image of her daughter’s SPACE. She zooms it in a bit and can see that Ariel is chatting with someone. Janet scrolls into the chat and monitors it for a moment in Mom mode; Ariel will not be aware they are being monitored. It’s OK, she can see Ariel is talking with her girl friend Sam, “short for Samantha”, from school. Janet has SPACE transcribe the audio conversation into a NoteSPACE so the driver can’t eavesdrop. Everything is innocent though. Janet scrolls over to her MessageSpace and signals Ariel that she wants to talk a bit. Through the camera feed, Janet watches Ariel accept the call, putting Sam on hold.

“What, mom”, Ariel says impatiently.
“ I just wanted to remind you that Dad and I ae out to dinenr tonight. You’ll be OK and get dinner.”
“Yes, MOTHER”, Ariel says exasperatedly.

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