Future Technologies

Lots of people have visions of a future where cyberspace is as much a part of life as the real world is. In the (very near) future, that could become an actual possibility. With technologies like virtual and augmented reality, cloud computing, and interactive real-world space, all kinds of cool possibilities are opening up. So, here’s the list of some of the products making these steps possible.

1. Google’s Project Glass

ImageThe glass works by projecting information onto a piece of clear material that sits in front of one eye. It’s voice activated and completely hands-free. Glass could be the first realistic step towards popularizing augmented reality equipment, and since it’s run by google (who is also working on a self driving car) there’s likely no risk of the project failing due to lack of money or time. check out the project at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Glass

2. Oculus Rift

The Rift is definitely the most impressive, accessible, easy to use virtual reality system in production right now. It’s equipped with hdmi, vga, and usb cables, so it can connect to a myriad of devices. The developer software is available now, so new projects are popping up constantly that use the rift in incredible ways. Image

The project’s homepage, plus a purchasable developer kit is at http://www.oculusvr.com/

3. Virtual Shopping

In South Korea, grocery store chain Tesco has made a really cool system for people to shop while waiting for the subway. Shoppers with the Tesco app can scan QR codes on a display and the app will order the food for them. The store then ships the food directly to their houses. It’s a really interesting way for the shoppers to save time, and it’s a big step towards interactivity worldwide. Check out a cool video of the system in action at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fGaVFRzTTP4

4. Apple iCloud

This is just an example of the many different cloud computing systems out there. Basically what iCloud does is connects all of your enabled devices together so that you can share files and software between them. Combining cloud computing with augmented and virtual reality could be a really cool development. Apple has a really simple explanation of the system at http://www.apple.com/ca/icloud/features/

5. Holographic Displays

A lot of buzz was generated at Coachella last year when Tupac came back from the dead to give a concert, but it was really a holographic projection onto a giant screen. If we can use this kind of hologram in concerts, why cant we use it in other ways too? The holographic displays could be used to create a sort of non-personalized equipment-free augmented reality system. Check out at http://www.spinner.ca/2012/04/17/holograms-in-concert/ for a really neat article on the concerts.

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Warnock Pro is a nice font.

I really think that Warnock is a nice font. I’m a big fan of serif fonts, and Warnock hold on the the classy feel of a good old fashion typeface while changing it up and looking interesting. It was designed by Robert Slimbach, and named after John Warnock, the co-founder of Adobe Systems. After it’s conception in 2001, Warnock won that year’s TDC2 contest.

I find Warnock Pro appealing for a few reasons. Again, it’s a really classy looking font. It makes a page look like it’s being narrated by Morgan Freeman. The type is very mechanical looking, however the distinct looking serifs add a human touch. It’s almost conservative and old fashioned, but it’s warm and soft, like a grand-dad. The serifs themselves are very thick and have softened points, which is quite appealing. There is barely any slant to the typeface, which makes it easy to follow along a page. Warnock comes in standard, light and semibold. By far my favorite is light. The thin branches of the letters contrast the heavy serifs beautifully. Semibold can look ugly at times, particularly when shown at large sizes. That, however, is the only problem I’ve seen with the type so far.

Overall, for a classic looking font, Warnock Pro is definitely one of my favorites. It’s distinct without being weird, it contrasts perfectly with itself, and I most certainly will use it as much is i can.

Current Trend: Community Driven Content

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One big trend that’s gaining popularity is wites that feature community driven content. What this means is that the site’s users post everything onto the site, and the site owners do nothing more than moderating. Three of the most popular community driven sites are Reddit, 4chan, and Stumbleupon. Reddit and 4chan are very similar mechanically in that they both feature several channels that feature different sorts of content. The biggest difference between the two is anonymity. Posting on 4chan is almost entirely anonymous, as membership is optional. Reddit, on the other hand, requires membership to post, and features a points system in which users vote on links and news. This makes for two very different sites content-wise.

Depending on the section of 4chan, the content ranges from cute and innocent to offensive and dark. However, there is also a phenomenal amount of original content posted on the site. Since there is no system of points and voting as featured on reddit, there’s no reason to limit one’s self on the type of content posted. This makes 4chan one of the purest places on the internet. Not to say that there isn’t copy-pasted garbage on the site constantly, but people on 4chan often actually post their thoughts and opinions on things, and often if a post is copy-pasted (or copypasta) then the community shreds it.

On reddit, things are drastically different. While the system of voting works incredibly well for weeding out negative content, a feature that is lacking on 4chan, they have added a points system for people that post highly voted-on content. This entirely breaks the system, as users will take content that they know people enjoy, make tiny changes, and re-post the same recycled garbage over and over again until the community finally decides they’re sick of it.

Stumbleupon works differently at it’s core from both of those sites. People post content onto stumbleupon, and the site will detect whether you like the same things as them and then show you those sites. There is almost no interaction between the community, yet they drive it entirely. 

Despite all of the flaws in community driven sites, there’s no denying their power. Earlier this year, the reddit community brought so many hits to an amateur actor on IMDB that he gained more on-site popularity than Tom Cruise. 4chan often attacks things that they deem to be negative and absolutely destroy them. They have costed Scientology millions of dollars worldwide, and they have shut down hundreds of sites over the years. 

Overall, there are pros and cons to community driven sites, but they are certainly gaining great popularity, 

Website Graphics and Images

For this post I decided to look at all of the websites and quickly talk about each one individually.

First off, IKEA. The IKEA site is fantastic, and the use of images and graphics make navigation super easy. The pictures helped me to find things really easily, and they didn’t make the site feel cluttered or cramped. I could look for individual items, styles, whatever. The site is excellently designed.

The Crystal Waters Spas site was less nice. While it was clean and easy to navigate, the water graphic at the top of the page was enormous and very distracting. It made the site seem unbalanced, and it looked like it was trying to take over the page.

The Okanagan Wine Festival made different uses of the graphics, which I found to be very pleasant. The logo features a square split up into spring, summer, fall and winter, each of which have a section on the site that is color coded and features the same logos. The site was also nice and clean, without much clutter.

The Wooden Boat Magazine website was a different story altogether. It was a jumbled mess of text and pictures, all of them too small to properly see. If the site’s homepage was cleaned up and the pictures were larger, then it would be a much easier read.

BC Ski Country was a nice site that features lots of photos and graphics. The site’s homepage was simple, showing the three resorts owned by the company with a link to each. It was easy to figure out what I was looking for on the site, and I never had to search hard for anything thanks to the clean graphics.

The Royal Tyrell Museum’s website seems like it’s targeted at kids and kids alone. The carousel on the homepage featured loads of links that didn’t look like links, and the dragonfly that followed my cursor around just irritated me. After I got off of the homepage, the site felt a lot better, the photos were easy to look at and the site was easy to navigate.

Blue Imp’s website was definitely one of the best. The homepage isn’t distracting at all, and the carousel featured a nice showcase of their work. The different sections of the website made excellent use of graphics. All of the company’s playgrounds were showed off without cluttering the page, and it was very easy to follow them around.

Auto trader’s website was worse, but not the worst by far. It was tricky to find anything on the homepage since there were pictures everywhere. The rest of the site was easy to navigate and easy on the eyes, and the homepage was a very minor setback.

Lastly, the Hyde Mountain Golf Course website. This site made good use of its graphics, despite them looking a little outdated. The site’s background showed off a good view of the course, and almost every page had a display of a few images. The only problem I had was that they weren’t very well organized, but it was a pretty insignificant problem overall.

History in the Making

Virtual Reality has been a big dream of innovators since it was first thought up, and there have been many huge failures and underwhelming tries since them. Morton Heilig was a big part of the popularization of VR in the sixties, and Gunpei Yokoi’s infamous Virtual Boy brought VR into (very few) consumer’s homes in the nineties before sputtering out. Palmer Luckey’s project, called the Oculus Rift, has the potential to actually make virtual reality into a reality. While virtual reality gear already exists, and works well, almost all of it is so expensive that it’s only realistic purpose is for industrial use. The rest of the VR equipment that’s available is so bulky and specialized that it really only fits in high-end arcades. The Oculus Rift is a small, affordable headset that makes VR gaming actually possible at home. Technically, it offers six degrees of motion tracking, a 110-degree field of vision, and 720p high definition display (it doesn’t sound like much, but on a screen that sits centimeters away from your eyes it’s a lot). It also only weighs .22Kg, and it features DVI, HDMI, and USB ports, making it usable with almost any computer set up. So far windows, linux, apple, IOS, android, and unreal all support the Oculus Rift. There are also several game developers that are releasing Oculus Rift compatible content this year. The Oculus Rift is everything I could ever want in a VR headset, and Palmer Luckey couldn’t have done a better job with it. 

Copyright and Fair Dealing

How does fair dealing affect me as a designer and a creator/user of copyrighted material? Basically, fair dealing means that copyrighted materials can be used in three ways. Research/study, Reporting, and Review. Research/study means that a person can use copyrighted material to learn. Reporting means that a person can report and post news involving copyright materials. Review means that a person can review copyrighted material. This means, in short, that people can talk about copyrighted material, as long as they acknowledge that it belongs to the creator. The material cannot be used to create new content. To me, that means that people can’t claim my own content as their own, and I can’t use other people’s content in my work. Seems to me like don’t steal and don’t be a jerk are good rules of thumb for this one.

Scavenger Hunt

So, first post, Scavenger Hunt. Found some cool stuff while I was messing about on the internet, and lo and behold, some of it actually fit the theme of this post. Interactive media, public displays, interactive fansites, medical, and location aware technology. So here ya go. Ill try and make it look nice.

First off, I’ve found the winner of last year’s Interactive Media Awards, Blenderbox. Blenderbox is a real cool company. Everything they do is based in New York City, and it shows. It’s easy to tell that this company is proud of where they come from. They have worked on websites for the Rockefeller Foundation, the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial, the Kennedy Center, and loads more. Their designs are really recognizable, with clean, organized visuals, cool widgets and an inherent ease of navigation. Check out their website here.

Secondly, a public interactive media display that knocked my socks off. German artist Freidrich van Schoor created this video installation for his school, hbksaar. If anyone out there can read German, then check it out. If not, check it out and just be confused. The artist built the display by filming two regular sized spiders inside of a tiny building build to scale with the real one, and then projected the spiders onto the inside of the building’s windows.

Next up we have the fansite for my second favorite show, Futurama. I will warn you, the website looks like junk. But gotfuturama.com has some really cool features. Down the sidebar you can easily find news, reviews, episode guides, FAQs, links, and tons more. But if you look a little further into the site you’ll notice more fan-friendly features. The site hosts fan fiction and art, alien language encoders, forums, trivia and games, among many more thing. It’s worth checking out if you like futurama.

Invivo is a company that develops learning apps for the medical field. They feature apps designed for Apple, Android, Blackberry and HTML, and they target everyone from students to doctors to patients. The apps they put out are top notch, and it’s worth checking out their demo reel.

Lastly, we have the Android app Layar. I found two things in this app, promise and disappointment. This app features both location-aware technology and an augmented reality system. It works by tracking your location, showing you a heads-up display of local businesses and pointing you int the right direction. It can also read print and take you to websites, online stores, and make recommendations based on where you are. The rough part about this app is that it doesn’t want to work for me. There are a few reasons for this. First off, for the app to work businesses have to sign up and use the system. It makes sense as to why the program doesn’t work in here in Regina, as most (if not all) he businesses around here have likely never heard of the app. Beyond that, there is no way for the common consumer to learn about it unless they were looking. That doesn’t make it a bad app, it just means that it doesn’t exactly work here. What makes it a bad app is that it doesn’t seem to work at all. I tried scanning about five printed items from the layar website and none of them linked anywhere, including their own magazine. The other big problem i had with the system is that there doesn’t seem to be any indicator on any of the pages that they are layar compatible. It seems like the company just expects you to scan anything and everything int the hopes that some of what you find will do something. All in all there is a lot of promise, but not much else.

Victoria de Leeuw

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