Early in my career, I had the good fortune to spend a year as the end-to-end technology adviser to Steven Spielberg on the film Minority Report. I was a recruit from the MIT Media Lab, and in addition to imagining, inventing, adapting and arranging countless small and large bits of tech into a coherent 2054, I had to answer the question, ‘How will people use computers in 50 years?’
We’re in an era of big data and yet our digital toolset provides us with little. Literally. We’ve only got little glimpses made up of small pictures of information unnaturally compressed and violently simplified in order to fit the frame. We’re designed to see the foreground but also the horizon, see straight ahead but also 180 degrees side to side, and all this at once. Humans see in parallel; only computers insist that we regard one thing at a time. We need to find a way out of this digital straitjacket. Data interoperability isn’t going to keep pace with the speed of business innovation. It’s time to think about pixel interoperability to better leverage our brains. It’s time to move the workplace from pixel scarcity to pixel abundance.
The foundations are in place: the technical feasibility of larger and larger displays, with the price per pixel dropping precipitously. So availability and affordability of large displays for every surface is not the issue. User interface – how to interact with the abundance of pixels, how to arrange and control information across multiple distinct displays – is. This is where the importance of user interface (UI) becomes suddenly absolute, and where Oblong’s expertise comes in.
As it turns out, architecture – the physical space around us – already provides a fundamental framework at excellent scale for an abundance of pixels to immerse workgroups in data and content in every direction. This notion of three-dimensional immersion into all that is vital for surfacing insights, and arriving at solutions, is something we call Infopresence.
This move to pixel abundance, to fuel a new era of Infopresence, will feel like a vista opening up. The capabilities enabled on the other side of that evolution are not simply a convenience but will, rather, be critical to the basic functioning of a 21st-century world: economically, technically, politically, commercially, socially. Working this way feels immediately simpler, more natural, attuned to the human mind and truly exhilarating.
In the real world, ‘seeing more’ (literally or metaphorically) always confers an advantage. We’re at the moment where at last we can re-form the digital world accordingly, to let us see – and so do – more.
John Underkoffler is founder and CEO of Oblong Industries, and winner of the 2015 National Design Award for Interaction Design. Learn more at www.oblong.com.
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