Staring Forward

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New media is sometimes just so sexy that we become infatuated - the problem is that crushes are always fleeting and often leave us with a sense of waste and a taste of regret.

2009 brought with it a whole spectrum of new technologies and introduced a lot of emerging platforms into mainstream culture. We were enamored by all the new iPhone Apps, by cloud computing, social networking, smart phones, Augmented Reality, by all the gestural interfaces and glowing buildings, by 3-D movies, e-books, twitter.

As a lover of the digital, the new, the exciting, the interactive, it's easy to be seduced by shiny, smart ideas that, more often than not, are mainly gimmicks.

Take, for example, the recent cultural crush on the N Building project in Japan. If you haven't already read all about it, this digital facade is a giant QR code that can be read by iPhones like a barcode to reveal realtime graphics that appear to be superimposed on the building. Look at the building through your iPhone 'lens' and discover the stories that hide behind the architecture.

It seems fancy and new but serves as a great reminder of what happens when we get too excited about technology and forget that our physical spaces last longer than a Esquire magazine issue. Why would we want a building in the form of a barcode when we've spent the last few decades trying to make barcodes disappear?

If you're interested in layering real-time information in physical environments, which you should be, then here are some truly innovative things happening in the world that I think have a lot of substance.


Virtual Mirror uses existing Augmented Reality technology to allows customers to try things on virtually (like glasses or make-up) by providing a photo or real-time video feed. Here's where existing technology really begins to focus on experience and functionality.


Sixthsense's wearable gestural interface that delivers information directly into the real world is going open source. It still needs to be designed into a desirable fashion accessory but the technology, functionality and interactivity are here and ready to be placed into our every day realities.


Babar A. Parviz, a bionanotechnology expert at the University of Washington, is developing contact lenses with embedded display technology and wireless control. Read this for more fascinating information about the research. Here contact lenses become Augmented Reality.

When I try to decide if I think a new design or technology has longevity, I always ask myself what a second engagement with it would feel like, and then the 100th. I find it a simple and helpful litmus test for separating the fad from the truly fabulous. My hope for 2010 is to focus on the fabulous. Less crushes, more love.

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