Bruce Sterling’s been “Visionary in Residence” again this summer at the Pasadena Art Center, where he’s been in cyborg mode, focusing on augmented reality, or reality augmented and mediated by computer-generated sensory input. Bruce has developed an application that runs on the Layar platform, called Dead Drops, inspired by the work of German media artist Aram Bartholl, which per Sterling is “all about hidden data revealed in real-world, three-dimensional spaces.” A Dead Drop is
an anonymous, offline, peer to peer file-sharing network in public space. USB flash drives are embedded into walls, buildings and curbs accessable to anybody in public space. Everyone is invited to drop or find files on a dead drop. Plug your laptop to a wall, house or pole to share your favorite files and data. Each dead drop is installed empty except a readme.txt file explaining the project.
It’s sorta like geocaching, where the cache is digital, and anybody who finds the drop can add to it. The application Bruce has developed is for finding and mapping the drops.
This morning (April 26, 2010), as part of the Social Media Breakfast series organized by Bryan Person and Maura Thomas, I led a discussion about the iPad. I don’t actually have an iPad myself, but I was eager to hear what the diverse SMB crowd would have to say about the impact and future of the device. Several who came had already bought iPads; we distributed them among the breakout sessions.
I framed the discussion by talking about the devices apparent strengths (light, mobile, easy to use) and limitations (hard to print, hard to interface with other systems, doesn’t have a built-in phone or camera). Then we had breakouts to discuss the iPad from various perspectives: what makes the iPad compelling; what is its impact on productivity, lifestyled, marketing, publishing, and social media; what can we expect from a world where we have connectivity like water – always on, everywhere. What had a great turnout, almost sixty people, and they were smart and vocal – so we had great conversations.
What were the conclusions? People felt that the iPad is more for lifestyle and entertainment, though there’s a potential for it to become a productivity tool. We heard that some hospitals are already incorporating it into their workflow, for instance.
One group felt that the “what the hell is that thing” confusion was part of what made the iPad compelling – people are drawn to it to try to figure it out.
They also felt that the iPad is driving a shift to new standards – platforms that start instantly, are light and mobile, incorporate touch technology, and are accessible and easy to use.
The iPad is not exactly great for productivity, though it can have an impact on efficiency. In business, it’s a great sales tool and communication tool, but it’s not a laptop or PC replacement. However it will allow sales professionals to demo anywhere, and gather information on the spot.
Where marketing is concerned, the iPad integrates both push and pull technologies and is a promising platform for ad-based content and services. There are already effective news apps. It’s also a great tool for engagement – many apps that run on the iPad and iPhone are social technologies.
The group that discussed social media was split regarding the impact of the iPad. They felt the biggest impact of the iPad would be in bringing in new social media adopters and spreading awareness of social media. Because it’s easy, it might help older people who are not digital natives adopt social media. It’s also great for multitasking. (We didn’t get into the discussion whether multitasking is evil.)
In publishing, there’s a split between specialized apps and browser-based experiences; the iPad facilitates both. The iPad might evolve as a textbook replacement. It will have an impact on organizing and editing information. The group agreed that information is more important than the platform for its delivery. There were questions about the future of print media as it becomes digital. The move from legacy to digital environments has meant lower revenues.
The iPad can be great for mobile professionals – physicians, for example, who will find the iPad even more useful as more health data is digitized and accessible in electronic health records.
The various limitations of the platform. – printing limitations, connectivity limitations, lack of USB, display interaces, cameras, and the lack of tethering were all limitations of the iPad, but none of them insurmountable. The iPad just wasn’t built to do everything. And it’s evolving.