In Beyond Being There, Jim Hollan and Scott Stornetta write about the value of face-to-face communication and the difficulty in solving the telecommunication problem. The telecommunication problem is about creating a sense of being there, by establishing some form of audio and video connections between two distant locations.
I was most intrigued by the following quote from the paper:
“It seems to us that there is no real solution to this situation so long as people use one medium to communicate with those at a distance and another for those for whom distance is not an issue. Those distant will always remain at a disadvantage to those present. It is not really even a question of the quality of the device. It is what it is trying to achieve. It could be 3-D holographic with surround-sound, but if people use an imitation to talk to some people but the “real thing” to those physically
A logical extension to this line of thinking is that the people at a distance will never stop being at a disadvantage until we use the same mechanisms to interact with each other when we are physically close as when we are physically distant. And that means that to make real progress on the telecommunication problem, we must develop tools that people prefer to use even when they have the option of interacting as they have heretofore in physical proximity. We must develop tools that go beyond being there. But what would it mean for something to be better than being there? And how could we design such a device?”
They go on to state a “conclusion of studies that the audio/video medium is much closer to the audio only medium than it is to the face-to-face condition.”
I personally believe that Google’s Project Glass may be futuristic device that Hollan and Stornetta had dreamed of.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Project Glass, you may refer to:
Project Glass Concept Video:
Project Glass Demo at Google I/O 2012:
I had the pleasure of attending an undergraduate AI class with Professor Thad Starner back around 2008 – in which, Prof. Starner provided a demonstration of the potential in wearable computing. Prof. Starner picked out a random student on the first day of class – and had him introduce himself. During their face-to-face conversation, Prof. Starner was actively searching for the student’s facebook profile, linked-in, personal website, and anything else he could find on the internet about the student. It seemed very that Prof. Starner knew everything about the student, from interests to past jobs, without ever knowing the student existed just minutes before.
This may seem creepy by today’s standard, because it’s a method of interaction we are not used to… but one could also argue that building a profile containing your personal interests, hobbies, activities, check-ins, and photos on the internet could also be seen as creepy just a decade ago. Today, this seems normal – as online social networks have become mainstream.
Imagine if your wearable computer gave you an alert whenever a friend (or perhaps, even a stranger with extremely similar interests) was within close proximity to you. Even if not built in to project-glass, this seems like a fairly simple mobile application to write.
Now imagine you’re having a technical argument with a friend, and you have seen hard statistical evidence somewhere on the internet that proves you’re right. Given networked wearable computer, you could easily search for such statistical evidence and share it to your friend’s display. Behold the end of technical arguments! This idea could be taken even a step further to fact-check politicians. Imagine how interesting a presidential debate could be, if you had real-time fact checking =)
I believe that Project Glass has the potential to not only imitate face-to-face interaction via Google+ Hangouts, but also augment face-to-face interaction and become the norm. It may provide a revolutionary new method for meeting other interesting people and having richer fuller relationships by surfacing common interests you never knew you had! And it has the potential for so much more – ending technical arguments, fact-checking EVERYTHING, providing a second memory for Alzheimer’s patients, etc.