About twelve years ago I was watching my later Nokia colleague Chris Heathcote talk at O’Reilly Emerging Technology conference on how in ten years, there will be “no concept of lost”. This was a couple of years after US let civilians access very accurate GPS, but a couple of years before the GPS receivers became so cheap that they could be embedded in the phone.
Another thing that we didn’t have back then were global 3G networks and the concept of network time. Phones ran on whatever time you gave them, and even though NTP and the lot were keeping accurate time on the internet, the telecom industry was a bit behind the times on that.
But now we have both - almost every smartphone has a GPS chip and very accurate time information. We’re rooted very firmly in both time and place - sort of a reverse TARDIS, which is neither here or now. We’re no longer “lost”, unless it is our intent or we’re very unlucky. Location-based gaming (Pokemon Go) is something that could not have existed before this, and there’s now a lot of smart people figuring out the next possible avenues that is enabled by constraining us even tighter within a particular box of spacetime continuum. For example, Indoor Atlas locates us within 3 metres inside a building by mapping the magnetic fields. (Funnily enough, magnetic location mapping wasn’t in Chris’ original slides, which otherwise were pretty accurate.)
So yeah, it’s now possible to know well where you are - but it’s also easier than ever to know where everyone else is. There’s a gazillion of applications dedicated to making people meet in places, from the fairly innocuous to very creepy. This is a funny reversal: one thing that cell phones did at the beginning of the century was to liberate us from place and time.
The liberation is now pretty much complete: we can choose to be in different places, but still participate in the same event at the same time through tools like Snapchat and WhatsApp and Periscope; or we can participate in the same location but at different times (Geocaching, Pokemon Go), or we can be completely free of time and place (Youtube, Slideshare), or we can meet in the same place at the same time (Meetup, Glympse).
So I have to ask - is this it? Are all the niches of existence now covered? Is there room for apps somewhere else in the spacetime? Is there something that’s being ignored?
Am I being too human-centric here? What apps will the AIs write for themselves and for us? :-D
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