Gesture, Touch, and Sense


How Systems Will Work in the Future — Actually Now.


Imagination the Only Limitation

Gesture, sensors, wireless, Artificial Intelligence, video everywhere, location-aware,persona & role-based, visual and personalized UI, voice, virtual reality, simulation, Internet of Things, RFID, big data and robotics. Lots of buzz words for technologies that are starting to converge in areas like robotics, Cognitive Location Processing (CLP) technology, and location servics, or are embedded within day-to-day utilities to optimize the performance of everything from transportation to home appliances and medical devices.

Source: Image by Steve Jurvetson, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The convergence of these technologies is already changing our lives. Recently, robots got permission to get driver’s licenses in California. And software now tells cars what to do. So-called big data applications can evaluate multiple inputs from the environment, the car, and your driving habits to make recommendations on speed and routes, as well as tell the car when to switch from petro to electric, to save energy. But software is much more nuanced even than this. And our future is much more interesting.

There are other pictures of the future, for example, as depicted in the recent movie by Spike Lee, Her, in which a man falls in love with an artificially intelligent operating system. These futuristic scenarios are not so farfetched, since we live in a world in which robots can talk to each other or go to work for you (see a great YouTube video demo here); or a computer, via capabilities such as Siri or Google Now, which can know you and make suggestions about what you should do — scary thought. To quote Google, “Your information is automatically organized into simple cards that appear just when they’re needed.” (Italics are mine). Of course, we know how Google can do that, since they collect every bit of content and key stroke, and use micro and macro analytics (inference technology) to know that every day at 5, Ann will attempt to leave her office to go home.

Source: Image by Syced, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Siri also knows a lot about us, since many of us keep location tracking technology on and have trained her to know nicknames, common questions, and our search and spending habits. Imagine a computer suggesting what you should do next. Ironically, many people want this and think this is pretty cool. “That’s a great idea, Siri. Let’s go buy pizza and then we’ll go shopping.” This seems to be the current intent of what the data will be used for. But since Google data can be purchased by all sorts of companies, what applications will be developed next? Our homes, appliances, sports instruction, transportation, and business information systems are being infused with systems that sense movement or intent and then make decisions based on massive data analysis to determine the next “right move.” This is part of the convergence of these technologies that is changing the day-to-day systems we now use.

There are many other constructive and productive things that can be done with such technologies to solve many problems for humankind. They can be used in very practical ways: my friend with MS now has a computer that can interpret his intent and help move his legs. He can still travel and, using this technology, shuns a wheelchair. Robots can be used to go into disaster or hazardous areas to rescue people, or do clean-up work where humans can’t venture. They can be used to manage remote operations such as deep sea drilling or sea-based windmills or as miniaturized smart sensors for safety features on every device.

Take a step back and think about phrases such as context aware, memory retention, sensing. These, as well as visibility, IoT and RFID-enabled systems, are terms you already hear today.

New Era of Developers and Systems

The UI and big data worlds are just getting started. As the large investments shift from enterprise applications to service, industrial, and medical applications, more jobs are opening up for developers who can use these technologies to develop commercial products. Currently, the only real limitations are packaging them in a way that can be embedded in the existing paradigms (smarter cars, more optimized building management, medical devices, and so on); or developing products, at scale, that can be commercialized.

It is interesting to note that many basic technology skills are upgradable to some of the newer areas. After all, engineering and coding basics have not changed all that much. Colleges are graduating computer science and UI developers (but there does not seem to be enough of them) for these newer areas. Fortunately, the curious tech world is still a blend of the pioneers who never give up tinkering and are often keeping up with the newer technology and the new grads. The reverse, though is not true. The new generation is not learning about the older systems.

Enterprise Systems Must Change

Shortages exist for experienced people who will work on EDI or ERP projects. Younger workers know very little, though, about the old world of EDI and ERP, and don’t want to learn it. So-called abstraction layers for developers are being created so end-users may take over enterprise development1 to some degree. The unseen faces of the ERP cloud providers will work behind the scenes to update the trickier components beyond the reach of this smarter software. Although major tech companies are moving to the new social and mobile inspired UIs, this should be thought of as an intermediate step to a more profound immersive CLP-type work of gesture recognition and interpretation.2

A while ago I wrote about the three cutting edge trends in the enterprise world:

  1. Intelligence Everywhere, and Everything Intelligent – uto-ID, sensors, and embedded intelligence
  2. Collaboration Convergence — a convergence of previously disparate technologies, such as functional applications, video, voice, and social networks that enable education, remote diagnostics, and global business collaboration on anytime and anywhere platforms.
  3. Anywhere Enterprise — the breaking down of enterprise walls and changing the mode of work through mobile and cloud. Instead of being tied to an office, the “anywhere enterprise” creates a flexible environment for work and federated value chains.

These are no longer cutting edge, but reality.

1 SAP recently told us that they have over a hundred thousand downloads of Lumira. Although, based on demos I have attended, it still requires a lot of training to use. It’s not Excel (it’s much more powerful) and it’s not the new, easier to use gesture and touch-based UI that I am talking about. But it does show the continued trend of end-users trying to take more of the work into their own hands, as it were … — Return to article text above

2 We recently talked about this in Maintenance and Repair applications from Globe Ranger, who was recently acquired by Fujitsu. — Return to article text above

To view other articles from this issue of the brief, click here.

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