Connecting the Tech, Design & Entrepreneur Community

Look into the future

Person with VR headset, holding smart phone

Courtesy of The Blade

One of the two Blade articles I was interviewed for last week has been published. This one is in the Arts section: the other was being written for the Business section.

Look into the future: How technology is changing our art, our world — and even ourselves by Kirk Baird, who covers media and culture.

Good article! Kirk did a great job of connecting what technology people are using today to a bit of history that many people are not aware of. He introduced a technology, then talked about the human aspects of it. Theme: it takes time for each technology to reach an “ease of use” threshold before it really has an impact on society.

Integrating viewpoints from Bonnie Mitchell (digital art) and Jerry Schnepp (VCT/Collab Lab) from BGSU was a crucial part of the article.

And I really like point of the article: to get people thinking about what future we want to build together. I am honored that some of my quotes were used to close the article. I am sure I used the word “culture” a few times while Kirk and I were talking. “It’s all about our values” is a pretty good way to frame it all.

A few of my own comments, with links to more information when appropriate.

The 1990s “technology conference” that I mentioned where I saw virtual reality in its early research stage was the ACM CHI Conference. I do not remember exactly which year that was, but the point is that if you are starting to see it in the mainstream now, researchers were “playing with it” a while ago to start to understand the human implications of the technology. Another ACM conference, SIGGRAPH, was also mentioned in the article. If you want to “see the future,” go to research conferences like those.

I mentioned the technology adoption life cycle model and the hype cycle. The 2016 Gartner Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies shows VR at the “slope of enlightenment” for example. In 1995, they had VR on the down side of “inflated expectations.”  In 2005, augmented reality showed up in the “technology trigger” phase. You can see how other technologies have followed the cycle, like wikis, video conferencing, and VoIP (which are mainstream now).

There are a few things that could use clarification.

The “evolution of technology” timeline is a good way to remind people of some of the history. But it would be more accurate to label it “The evolution of media and communication hardware technology.” All of the software evolution is missing. There was important “pre-hardware” communication technology like the pencil and the book. And some really important technologies, such as the plow, machine gun, and antibiotics, belong on different timelines.

The “who is Keith” at the beginning of the article merged two of my roles that I talked about with Kirk. Tech Toledo is the company I formed with Stuart Bertsch to connect the tech, design and entrepreneur community in the region. Separately, I do consulting to “help companies make their technology easy to use”, as an independent contractor and in partnership with design agencies. We also talked about a 3rd role, my affiliation with BGSU, where I sometimes teach a class and where I did research in the 1990s. My BGSU research career is the source of some of my insights for the article.  In the end, no big deal.

Net: read the article, and let’s continue the regional discussion about artificial intelligence, virtual reality, sensors and other computing technologies that are shaping our future. How do we want to shape it?

Keith