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Vodafone Predicts the Future
Jamais Cascio, 4 Feb 05

vodafone.jpgIt used to be a requirement that cutting-edge technology companies produce a video showing what The Future (tm) will be like when the swoopy new toys their R&D folks are thinking about over beers eventually come to pass. The best-known of these videos is the Apple "Knowledge Navigator" video from the early 1990s (and if anyone has a link to that video, please let me know), showing just how much better (happier, more fulfilling, not drinking too much, etc.) your life will be (in The Future (tm)) once you have a computer-generated guy in a bowtie reading your email to you, making your travel plans, carrying on an affair with your spouse (if I remember correctly)...

Corporate videos are somewhat out of fashion, replaced by websites chock full of Flash animation. Last year, Vodafone -- one of the world's biggest mobile communication companies -- launched its Future Vision website, which shows you what it thinks The Future (tm) will look like when everyone has organic polymer wrist displays, wireless communication between everything around them, cell phones drilled into their skulls (if I remember correctly), and the like. I kid because I love -- this is actually a very cool demo site, with branching storylines of attractive young people on the go and at home in London and Rome, attractive middle-aged people at work in the office and on trains in Germany, and requisite schlumpy guy getting in shape in Stockholm (but surrounded by attractive young and middle-aged people).

The technologies on display fall into the realm of "pretty likely, albeit not quite like that," from my point-of-view. They're all a bit too hip and clean, with none of the "street finds its own uses for things" quality I'd expect in reality. Nobody's bluejacking the electronic paper magazines or snapping untoward photos with the cameras built into their hipster eyeglasses. But Vodafone, to its credit, does give the viewer a chance to comment on the technologies presented in each vignette, rating them and telling the company (in effect) "yes, I want this" or "no, stop doing that."

You may not think that you're going to learn how to make the world a better place by spending a bit of time poking around in this vision of The Future (tm), but the site provides a useful exercise for the reader. Think about the tools as shown -- wireless displays, two-way wrist TVs, realtime networks everywhere you go -- and ask yourself how would they really be employed. How would they be used outside of European capitals? How would they be used in the developing world? Assuming these devices come about, how can we use them to make the world a better place? Because Vodafone's vision may not be completely on target, but I suspect they're not too far off; it's good to start thinking now about how to make these tools our own.

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here is a small-ish version of the Apple Knowledge Navigator video:


Posted by: mp on 7 Feb 05

MP! Thank you!

It's even cheesier than I remember. I so do not want an animated guy-with-bowtie taking up a quarter of my UI...

Posted by: Jamais Cascio on 7 Feb 05

Future Heroes 2035: My Friends and I

Future Heroes 2035: The Big Picture

The Linguistic User Interface (LUI)

Posted by: Dimitar Vesselinov on 9 Feb 05



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