MIT's vision of 2019 doesn't account for the Wii

The cover story on today's Computerworld is "The PC of 2019". The article features a video that demonstrates developers at MIT employing a combination of software and hardware to make computing ubiquitous, as they snap photos and get book reviews using mere hand gestures:

Microsoft recently envisioned a similar 2019, where computer interfaces meld with everyday life to offer unprecedented access to information. For example, both Microsoft and MIT demonstrate the interactive newspaper of the future — but what the MIT video first reminded me of is not the future, but the past. Equipping one's fingers with sensors to allow a touchless Surface-like experience is the technology not of 2007, not 2019. Johnny Lee of Carnegie Mellon University demonstrates it with the Nintendo Wii:

Such technology is not something we have to wait a decade for; it's the infrastructure and applications that need to be developed. Even then, will people want to use it? To take pictures or get book reviews, the students in the MIT video appear to be wearing fingertips and some sort of monocle. It reminds me of what Neal Stephenson defined in his book Snow Crash as a "gargoyle": someone constantly wired into the Metaverse, the book's version of a virtual world. I can't imagine many people encumbering themselves with this tech on a daily basis — but then, I see Bluetooth cell phone earpieces becoming increasingly popular, despite looking immensely uncomfortable. MIT and Microsoft are touting technology of the future that's already here. All we need is for it to move from the lab to the street and become the subject not of a TEDTalk, but of everyday life. For that to happen, such tech has to be practical and useful. What will it take for you to use the computer of 2019?

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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