Final Course Reflection

end obama

And now we have come to the end.

What did we learn, what does it mean and where do we go from here?

I learned about a bunch of things I hadn’t heard of before which is surprising as I keep up on the tech industry more than the average bear who reads Huffpo.  So let’s go in order that was specified on the assignment page, the order will be:

  • Trends
  • Theoretical approach
  • Policy
  • Social Issue

First off I want to merge the first two.  The theoretical approach I enjoyed learning the most is also linked into a trend I see growing within the world of Tech and media.  The Longtail theory shows that the further along we go with tech and media the more spread out the whole things gets.  So there will be fewer and fewer bits of tech that will be adopted by EVERYONE and more tech that will be for smaller niche parts of the community.  I think we will see more and more of this specifically in the world of media.  I can see a future where the amount of “stars” in media is very small but there are more people just making a living.  As viewership numbers continue to fall downward and our attention gets pulled in even more directions productions will have their budgets shrunk further and further to the point that people working in media will get paid more like the common worker and less like Robert Downey Jr..

giphy

Thinking of policy I can land on only one and that’s because the entire internet is screaming about it.  Net Neutrality will be the policy fight in tech for the next five to ten years.  As the fed’s law goes into effect there are a rush of states pushing back and banning Net Neutrality in their own backyards.  The thing that scares me will be the parts of this we don’t know about.  There have been things done in this country to systematically hold certain people down and NN feels like the newest tool for the evil shadow people.

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The social issue that will be the focus of our future is one we’re currently realizing is a big problem.  Data.  Businesses have been talking about mining it for years and now they are and they are doing more of it than we thought was possible.  People giving up their personal data has been a slippery slope in this country for decades and with each terrible rock-slide we as Americans seem to get a little made at first then shrug our shoulders mutter something about safety and let it happen.  It’s almost amazing that we are surprised anymore when we find out that Facebook, or Google, or our own government has way more of our personal data than we want them to (or is legal) and they are using it to further their own ends.  Eventually this situation has to hit critical mass and when it does I think one of two things will happen, either there will be a mass revolt or a mass acceptance of permanent loss of privacy.  We will either all go back to not knowing anything about each other at all or there will be public databases where anyone can see every single moment of our lives collected on video and streamable to your device in dazzling 8k resolution.

hacking

Over I think this was a great class and I am glad that it is on the list of classes I had to take.  I enjoyed working on my project and even though the class didn’t think it was worthy of moving forward I actually think it had the chance to be one of the most profitable concepts moving forward.

accomplished

Haves and Have-nots

Years ago I was working for a local TV station and I was on the board with some amazing people.  One of them was this lady who had made it her goal to bring high-speed internet to everyone in California.  Not just cable speeds either, she wanted every single citizen to have access to fiber optic speeds.  I thought that was a cool idea but I was wondering why she felt it HAD TO HAPPEN.  She told me that in the next decade anyone who doesn’t have high speed internet won’t be able to do business of any kind.  I balked at that idea.  Surely they’ll be able to do some kind of business, they can accept cash for goods or services can’t they?  She informed me I was wrong.  She pointed out that many of the POS (point of sale) systems currently available to new businesses required a constant connection to the internet to function and that the advantages a connected business has versus and unconnected one are so significant that if you unconnected you might as well stay home.  It’s possible she was being hyperbolic to an extreme but she’s not far off and it’s not just businesses that need to connect.

So much of what we do and say and even experience happens through the filter of the internet.  Just being able to talk to people becomes a struggle if they haven’t seen what just happened 5 seconds ago on the internet.  I was recently introduced to a co-worker who can only communicate through email as he doesn’t have a phone.  Even though he has access to the internet I feel like he might as well be on mars.  I have to send him emails in a bottle and hope that he responds in reasonable amount of time.

The point is that people who aren’t online can’t compete, or even really exist the same way the rest of us do.  The pace of life and knowledge has been creeping up for the last two decades to the point that anyone who took their eyes off the ball even for a few months is hopelessly behind.  So anyone who doesn’t even have the ability to connect to that world will struggle mightily to communicate with or have any kind of effect on it.

Hololens: The Future is already Here

From the early days of my childhood I can remember people talking about it.  It was the future, it was amazing, it was…VIRTUAL.  Virtual Reality was coming and when it got here it was going to change everything.  We started getting teases in movies like Lawnmower Man and Virtuosity where we were shown people putting on helmets and gloves and in some cases being hooked up to harnesses so that they could enter the virtual world.

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The virtual world was always very colorful and it allowed people to have super powers and generally it became super scary and people usually died.  It was rough.

But even knowing all of that me and my fellow nerdlings were super psyched to finally try it out.  There were a few impostors that dropped before we got the real thing though.  Namely Virtual Boy from Nintendo.  It was a Game Boy that came with super heavy glasses and turned everything red.  It sucked.

VB_kit

I didn’t get a taste of real VR until a couple of years ago when products like the Samsung Gear and the HTC Vive started hitting the market.  The gear was cool and it was cheap, a nice little dipping of ones toe into the pool of VR.  But it was limited because, while the Gear let you look at the VR world, you couldn’t touch anything.  There were controllers that you could get as add-ons but then it just felt like playing video games wearing a helmet.  Virtual Boy in Color!

The Vive was cooler because you had handheld controllers that felt more like your hands.  Now you can interact with the virtual world, while being connected to a cord, and a huge PC, and only if you have a pile of money.

Recently I was shown the Hololens.  A VR headset that doesn’t need to be connected to another device because it IS the device.  It doesn’t need controllers because your hands are the controllers.  It truly delivers on the promise of VR that I fell in love with in my teen years.  But it’s not Virtual Reality, they are calling it mixed reality.  The Hololens can work like a normal VR headset, transporting you to a virtual world where you can interact with people and generate ideas into physical forms on a whim.  However it can also function like augmented reality.  Letting you see computer projections layered onto the real world, and the projections don’t just sit on top of the real world but can actually interact with the real world.

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The Hololens has sensors and cameras that are similar to what is found in the X-Box kinect.  It has them all around the headset and those are important because what they do is read and measure the room.  The headset can evaluate and then understand the space you are in.  So if were shopping for a coffee cup you could grab a virtual model of the cup and see how it looks on your kitchen counter.  The headset knows you are holding a holographic cup and registers the height and placement of your kitchen counter, using a built-in physics engine it would allow the cup to “rest” on the counter.

The headsets do a ton more than just give your cup a place to rest.  It can also let you engage in virtual conferences in real-time with team members as well as translate if any of your team members speak different languages.  Here is a video showing a quick demo.

The best part of all of this?  If you want to check out a Hololens just let me know.  I know a guy.

The (brief) History of the Computer

We start way back with the computers that filled up rooms and ran on punch cards.ENIAC

From there it’s a quick leap up to one of the first home computers.  The Apple 2.

appleii-system

Shortly after that is when I started using computers.  My first computer was a PC that looked a lot like this.   It ran Windows 3.1, it had solitaire.  We never knew we could want more than this.

windows 3.1

The computers kept getting faster but then the companies that made started focusing on the design of the towers and the monitors.  They want them to look cool.  They got this.

pc 1996

Ok I thought it was cool.  We didn’t know any better.  It was smooth and not beige-white.  How much cooler do you want it?  Then Steve Jobs was like “Hold my beer”

imac

Holy crap that is cool.  It was small and had different colors.  Where was the tower thing?  Every person I knew with an Imac thought they were cooler than everybody else.  And they were right.

iphone

Then the game changed.  We had phones before, and we had computers that were small, but this was both and better and again stylish.  I held out for a year after these came out before I finally got one.  Actually my wife got one and I got jealous.  So now that computers could fit in your hand what would be next?  Would they fit in your ear?

tablet

Nope, they got bigger.  These act like they are a different thing but really they are basically just big smartphones.  The advantage of the size makes things easier to read and do work on.  Also having these gets us closer to star trek, cause everybody on the enterprise was always walking around with one of these.  So what’s next?  Some people say VR or AR but I just saw one of these a few weeks ago and I think this is next.

hololens

That, is a Hololens.  That thing on that guys head is enhancing the world around him while at the same time letting him create virtual constructs in a real world space.  It’s capable of transporting you into a VR world and then bringing things from that world back into your real space and interacting with everything else you own.  While the headwear might not stick around, this level of tech is whats next.  Keep an eye out cause these are awesome.