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BLOG: Here comes the age of ambient everything

Mike Elgan | Nov. 18, 2013
Trends in social, search, mobile, wearable and the Internet of things will alter our perception of reality. Change is in the air.

2. Wearable computing. As I experienced with Google Glass in the grocery store, notifications and other incoming information will appear to float in the air. This ambient feeling is strengthened by Glass apps that provide contextual information. For example, I use a Google app called Field Trip, which sends me alerts related to my current location. For example, I walked across an overpass recently, and a short article popped up in Google Glass telling me that the bridge was originally built in 1906 and other bits of information. It felt like that information lives on the bridge, and that Glass is some kind of magic eyewear that can see what's floating in the air there. Magic wristwatches will have the same uncanny power to harvest knowledge out of the air.

3. Preemptive search. Google Now, Siri and other services that are cropping up will seek to answer our questions before we ask them. More importantly, the interface to these virtual assistants will be mostly voice — we'll talk to them, they'll talk to us. Because they'll exist in all our spaces — in our wristwatches, phones, laptops, PCs, cars and homes — we'll have the luxury of not caring which device is delivering the assistant. We'll talk to the air and the air will talk back. It will feel especially ambient when the trigger for these preemptive search services is our location or context. For example, we'll get in the car, and Google Now will eagerly guess (based on the fact that we're in the car and the time of day) where we're going. We'll walk in the house, and that will trigger reminders we've asked to receive when we get home. As we drive by the dry cleaners, Siri will remind us to pick up our clothes. Virtual assistants will be everywhere and all around us.

4. The Internet of things. Our "things," such as our home appliances, will get microprocessors and Internet connections. Here's a very simple example: laundry. We put some clothes in the washer, and the washing machine will know who we are because it will detect identity from the phone. If we leave to run errands during the rinse cycle, the smart washer won't bother notifying us when it's finished because it will know that we're not home. As we walk up the path toward the door, the porch light will come on and the door will unlock — Bluetooth will alert the house that we're home. The lights will come on. The song that was half-played in the car will finish playing in the house. Oh, and the washer will know that we've returned and will remind us to put the clothes in the dryer. Walking into the house will feel like we're walking into a room full of data and intelligence.


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