Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

In the Future, Eyeglasses Translate and Creepy Music Plays Everywhere (Video)

While we’re on the subject of the computing needs of the future, I thought I’d remark on this Microsoft-produced video that recently emerged from its Office Labs think tank. The plot is an imagining of how we’ll get things done five to 10 years from now.

In the video you’ll meet Ayla, a working mother on a business trip to Johannesburg; Ayla’s daughter, Shannon, who needs help making something for a school bake sale; and a guy named Qin who — well, I’m not entirely sure what he’s doing, but he starts out waiting for a subway train.

These concept videos are always entertaining in the way they show us some slice of life from a routine day in some mildly utopian and antiseptic world of the future, one in which people don’t get stressed by business travel and don’t have hassles at the hotel check-in desks — and where hotel broadband networks actually work. There are lots of portable handheld screens, kind of iPad-like, really, on which people swipe and flick and make other interface gestures that we all intuitively understand now, thanks to — well, the iPad. Which is probably not the comparison that Microsoft is going for here. Ahem.

Also, in the future there are apparently smart windows in taxicabs, and these windows deliver some informative augmented reality, saying things like, “your meeting tomorrow is in this building.” How does the taxi know Ayla’s schedule? From her phone — which looks like a notecard.

Anyway, out of all the things that this video shows, the one thing I want is the eyeglasses that translate languages I don’t speak. Very “Star Trek.”

But when Ayla, the supermom of the future, finally goes to her meeting, it seems more like a meeting that’s held virtually than in person. If that’s the case, why did she even need to fly to Johannesburg in the first place — and why did she have to put on those incredibly cool but dorky-looking glasses? She could have done it all from her home in Redmond. Bonus: She’d have been home to help poor little Shannon with her bake sale in person. Siri, what is the cure for Mommy Guilt?

My weird observations aside, the video is interesting viewing. Hat tip to Nicholas Carr’s Rough Type blog, where I discovered it. Enjoy:


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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik