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Hey Internet, Where's My Jetpack?

Hey Internet, Where's My Jetpack? iMedia Editors
I’ve given up most of my dreams for the future. When I say “the future,” I mean, of course, “The Future,” the grand utopian vision of technological breakthroughs promised to me by the Weekly Reader, back in grade school in, uh, the late seventies. I’ve abandoned my plans to live as a seaweed farmer in my undersea biodome. I no longer expect to be whisked to work on a high-speed moving sidewalk. I’ve had to settle for a temperamental Roomba in place of a robot assistant. And I’m forced to clatter away at a crude keyboard in order to convey this disappointment, rather than beaming my thoughts to you through neural transmitters.

But I’ll be damned if I’ll spend the next ten years glumly clicking away at HTML pages as my main means of digital interaction. Neil Stephenson’s 1992 cyberpunk classic, Snow Crash, convinced me that my personal avatar, a dudelier, studlier version of myself, would be zipping around the Metaverse, doing meetings in virtual pubs and crushing virtual beercans against my virtual forehead (my memory of the novel is fuzzy). Come on, Internet, where’s my jetpack?!

I don’t know about you, but I’m hankering for some new Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) models. It feels  like we’re right on the verge: mobile interactions are pushing the boundaries, touchscreen tablets offer a whole new horizon, and Gesture Recognition models like Xbox’s Project Natal could be a game-changer. But only if we as marketers and practitioners challenge ourselves to challenge users to try new things. Otherwise we’ll be building inverted hockey-stick navigations and driving users into the same un-fun funnels for another generation.

We can do better. We have the technology.

There are two perfectly good reasons why inefficient technologies, like HTML or the combustion engine, persist long, long after better technologies could replace them: 1) momentum and 2) scale. Once a critical mass of people know how to use, build, fix, and make money from a given technology, we take big risks when we disrupt it. Just ask the folks at Second Life’s Linden Labs, which laid off 30% of its staff in June.

Our fine User Experience Architects remind us about heuristics – that users learn certain conventions that we must design for. But those same UX folks also tell us that good user experience principles, like top-down processing and redundancy, can be applied to any new interface to make it easier for users to embrace. How else did we all learn the iPod overnight? There were barely any instructions.

Today we have plenty of ways to push the digital boundaries short of flipping the switch on a virtual world. We can insist on mobile versions of every new Web experience we create. We can create unique experiences for tablets that take advantage of touch and motion. We can experiment with Augmented Reality wherever location comes into play. We can all buy Project Natal and dabble in gesture recognition til we drop. Which you know you wanted to do anyway – this way, it’s a tax write-off.

At White Horse, we're doing our bit by developing an HCI lab onsite so we can keep these new interfaces front-and-center. Many of these interfaces will never go big -- anyone care to purchase  a lightly used Newton? -- but others will evolve into the future, or possibly even The Future, of digital interactions.

I mean it, Internet. I want to be dazzled. Let’s see what you can do.

iMedia Communications, Inc. is a trade publisher and event producer serving interactive media and marketing industries. The company was founded in September of 2001 and is a subsidiary of Comexposium USA.  ...

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