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THE MANY SCREENS IN OUR LIVES
Over the next few years, as more information goes visual, many innovative ways of displaying images will emerge. We turned to Microsoft’s chief technology officer, Craig Mundie, whose vision
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helps drive his company’s research and development in this area, to reveal the horizon of possibilities.
“The way we think about it,” Mundie said, “is that there are actually going to be lots of screens in your life, and how you interact with them should be limited only by the fact that these screens will vary in size. In all other ways, it should be as scalable and uniform as possible. We think that the smallest screens in your life will be jewelry, like watches, and the next biggest screen in your life will be what we call your communicator. Broadly defined, communicators now exist in two basic flavors, which we call the one-hand form factor and the two-hand form factor. A one-hand communicator is basically a small screen with no keyboard; the whole mode of operation is ‘look at and talk’ and ‘hold and manipulate’ in a single hand. The PDA/phone combination is a superset of that. It’s a two-hand device on which you can annotate by using a keyboard to type with your thumbs or fingers, or by using the screen as a pad to write with a stylus or a fingernail. When you make that transition from one to two
One-hand camera phone
Two-hand smart camera phone
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hands, you move from a ‘display and verbal comment’ (or ‘display and no comment’) environment to a ‘see what I mean’ environment where you can interact with the content.
“Think about the screens on your household appliances,” Mundie continued. “They’re much smaller than those on a device that would be used for a desktop or an entertainment presentation. Think of a display on the dashboard of your car. There are a great many devices we use in our everyday lives that could in the future include displays, and the information on those displays is communicated almost 100 percent by glancing at an image, as opposed to reading text.
“We’ve showed a concept demonstration of a personalized alarm clock, and that was essentially an image-based display. Of course, your clock today, if it has hands rather than numerals, is already an image-based way of communicating time, but what we wanted to show is that, if you think of a clock more generally as being your bedside graphic display, then in addition to showing you the time it can also show you the weather, have your favorite stock with a big green or red arrow next to it—you know, all these things that we do visually today, but that we don’t do in all the places where it could be useful. So, do I think your phone will be the third screen? Yes, or maybe it will be the fourth or fifth screen. Perhaps it’ll be the second screen. That sequence is ultimately not important, but what is important, and very much so, is deciding on a consistent way of presenting classes of information by visual representation on the appropriate displays at the appropriate time.”
Whether by security cameras, personal webcams, or reconnaissance satellites, images that are potentially relevant to our society are being
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captured continuously, and in exponentially larger numbers every day, by a dramatically growing population of devices. Some of these devices in our homes and businesses are under our individual control, while many, controlled by corporations, institutions, governments, and municipalities, are not. These always-on, unattended, network-connected imaging devices are the tools of the phenomenon we refer to as automatic imaging.
The ever-increasing need to ensure safety in our society is driving the use of security cameras in facilities, on city streets, and orbiting in space. That presents us with an unprecedented set of societal challenges, as well as business opportunities. In our afterword, we touch on the important issues of privacy and access to information that are raised by automatic imaging. In this chapter, our focus is on some of the business opportunities created by the automatic gathering of visual information. The number and quality of image data being captured automatically for both government and private use have become so vast, and the means of distribution—the Internet—so universally accessible, that the opportunities to use this content for multiple purposes, regardless of the reasons for which it was originally gathered, are too enticing to ignore.
Jim Stoffel talked to us in his Rochester, New York, office about his evolving interest in the value of satellite imagery to businesses. Stoffel oversees Kodak’s research and development efforts, including its large staff of in-house scientists, as well as its relationships with outside companies working on technologies that Kodak might find of interest. In a nutshell, he’s the imaging giant’s technology czar. His comments illustrate a profound and positive unintended consequence of an elaborate imaging system that was originally built for security purposes, but that has now found a new market wherein it provides visual information for everyday business applications.