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Take a picture of something you don’t know how to fix.
LightSurf’s Philippe Kahn recalled how a picture helped fix a machine, “I was in a Kinko’s late at night needing to make copies, and one of the big color photocopiers was down, and I saw that there was a technician on the floor, lying on his back under the unit, speaking to someone on his cell phone, trying to describe the machine’s wiring. He was saying, ‘I’m seeing there’s this blue wire that’s going from this to that, and a yellow wire here . . .’ and it is obvious to me that he is having a hard time communicating what he’s seeing, and he is not getting the answer he needs from the supervisor on the other end of the phone. I leaned down and asked him if the guy he was speaking to had an e-mail address. He said yes, and I handed him my camera phone and said, ‘Try this.’ The guy snapped a picture of the wires that he was seeing, sent it
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instantly over to the other guy, and a minute later, the supervisor was saying, ‘Oh, you’ve got the model X3072. In that case, what you need to be doing is this and such.’ The poor technician had been under the machine for goodness knows how long trying to solve this problem with words. With an image, it was fixed in a snap.”
Going Further Visual: Five Future Steps
So far we’ve described how businesses can improve their opera I tions by applying tools and technologies that all of us are already
familiar with: digital, still, and video cameras; camera phones; computers; printers; and the Internet. As valuable as we’ve shown these to be, we have even better news (as they say in infomercials, “Wait, there’s more!”): The next five years will see greater development of tools and infrastructures that enable visual communication than have been seen in the past five centuries.
Technology is being developed and deployed so quickly that a science fiction film like Minority Report, released in 2002, which showcases the everyday use of futuristic concepts 50 years in the future, is already being overtaken by reality. Its 3D holographic displays and electronic newspapers showing ever-changing text, still, and moving images represent technology that exists today and will be widely available within the next three years. As a result, the companies that invest today in integrating visual communication tools and practices into their work flow will find the advantage they gain immediately will become magnified in the future, as increasingly powerful tools allow them to derive even greater benefits from their initial investment in Going Visual.
FIVE DIRECTIONS FOR THE NEAR FUTURE
In this chapter we’re going to tap into the knowledge we’ve gained from conversations and demonstrations with leading scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs who are working on a broad spectrum of new technologies that will push the possibilities for visual communication far beyond what we think of today as “photography.” We’re going to introduce you to some of these people so that you can
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hear, directly from them, descriptions of the systems being built and deployed that will dramatically extend the visual communications potential we’ve begun to explore.
Five major themes emerged from these conversations, five directions that we believe imaging innovation will focus on during the next three to five years. Here’s what we call them:
1. The imaging ecosystem
2. Visual mobility
3. Automatic imaging
4. Vivid imaging
5. Personalized authoring
Taken together, these five directions comprise a set of key interlocking concepts and technologies identified by the visual visionaries we interviewed as the foremost emerging strategies that mainstream businesses will adopt in the next three years.
THE ECOSYSTEM AND SMART DATA: MAKING THE PIECES FIT TOGETHER
One of the major challenges that average users have faced in trying to put technology to use, whether in their business or personal lives, is that, simply put, this stuff doesn’t all work together. In earlier days, one company could confidently say, “You push the button and we do the rest.” Today, however, the “stuff” that enables Going Visual is made and sold not just by different companies, but by companies that are in completely different businesses, ranging
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from imaging companies to cellular carriers, from informationprocessing companies and computer makers to consumer-electronics companies and more—it is a very long list. Today’s technology customer has a legitimate expectation that the parts should all work together, and seamlessly at that. Regardless of whether they are in the same or different industries, headquartered on the same city block or across the globe, it is the responsibility of the companies who make these products to ensure that users are never left scratching their heads, stalled because the technology is too difficult to manage. In the technology business, the answer to that requirement is standards, meaning common specifications that all companies agree to implement so that their products do, indeed, work together seamlessly.