From Mashable US (9 months ago)
In 2019, when you look back at the social media landscape ten years earlier, you might laugh at how hard you had to work. You had to type things into forms (ha! remember those?), type URLs in the address bar (how archaic!), and put up with irritating communications about irrelevant products. Social media in the future will be effortless and everywhere. Here’s a look at some of the new technologies in store for us over the next 10 years that will make our social (media) lives easier.
1. The Arduino – One Tough Little Italian
Arduino is a small circuit board commonly used to prototype electronics. Its low cost and ease of implementation has meant that this little device is now leading a hobbyist revolution in connecting real life objects to social networks, like Twitter. It has allowed one man to create a device attached to a chair that tweets at the presence of noxious natural gasses (ahem), another uses Arduino to monitor when his cats areinside the house or out, and a small bakery and cafe in East London is now able to tweet what’s fresh from their oven. This may all seem like pretty pointless stuff, but the pointlessness is the point.
The revolution of objects notifying human beings of their state (e.g., The Internet of Things) isn’t happening in the R&D labs of large multinational conglomerates, it’s happening in the spare rooms, garages and bedrooms of developers. The printing press, possibly one of the first inventions to aid information sharing, was invented byJohannes Gutenberg with investment intended for an altogether different enterprise: polished metal mirrors intended to capture holy light from religious relics, presumably to sell to hapless tourists. In other words, what might seem like silly tinkering today, might be a key contributor to our future world.
2. RFID Tags & Transponders
While Arduino will help household items become involved in our social media world, transponders such as Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags are truly breathing life into our objects.
For a number of years RFID tags have been used in passports, ID cards, travel cards and credit cards as a means to identify us when scanned, and they are used commercially for inventory tracking. Brands includingAbercrombie & Fitch, Levis and Kleenex have experimented with RFID tags to track their inventory at an item-level. Transponders can be made as small as a grain of sand and can be produced very cheaply. So it is widely thought that they may one day be installed in everything from a packet of biscuits to a pair of underpants.
But RFID tags have potentially valuable real-world applications. It may be possible, for example, to create a very cheap device which sits in your trash can or recycling box and monitors the contents by scanning RFID tags as stuff is thrown in. You might ask why anyone would want to do this with their garbage, but there is a lot of valuable data to be had in what is, in essence, scrobbling for your trash. Your trash is a goldmine of consumption data in the same way that your search data or browsing history is, and could be used to track brand loyalty and consumption habits.
And mobile phone manufacturers, particularly Nokia, are currently experimenting with consumer devices that act as readers and scanners, meaning that your mobile device might be able to do things like exchange information with other phones by bringing them near to one another, or gather information directly from products and find out instantly if anyone in your network has purchased the item in the past. Within the context of mobile phones, this technology is generally referred to as NFC (Near-Field Communication).
Of course, just because we could do this, doesn’t necessarily mean we would, or should. There are clear privacy implications involved that might make the idea of monitoring consumption via your trash or tracking your underpants dead on arrival. Privacy advocates such as CASPIAN are highly motivated to prevent this from happening — the notion that RFIDs could be on our person without us knowing is akin to web sites sharing knowledge about us without our consent. The anti-RFID site spychips.org has more information about the privacy concerns of the technology.
3. Geomagnetic Sensors in Mobile Devices
The compass is hardly new — it’s been around for thousands of years — but Yamaha has created a tiny 2mm x 2mm chip intended for use in mobile phones as a compass. When used in conjunction with GPS, AGPS or Wi-Fi triangulation and an accelerometer a compass heading could be extremely useful to give more granular positioning data to mobile applications.
Some older phones used to come equipped with these compasses, and though they have been phased out in recent years, they’re starting to make a comeback. Apple Insider suggests that the next generation of iPhone hardware will contain a “Magnetometer,” the feature already exists in the HTC Dream (the T-Mobile G1), though it is currently used for very little.
But the real world applications are many. For example, let’s say that you’ve just come out of a subway at a roundabout, and the first thing you do is take out your GPS-enabled phone’s mapping application to see where you need to walk to get to your friends waiting for you at a bar. In order to orientate yourself correctly, you’ll need to find street names. But if you happen to be in London, where I live, you know that street names are rarely in convenient places, they’re usually hidden behind trees and other signs (where’s the fun otherwise?). So a compass heading is a perfect way to let you know which direction you roughly need to walk in. Likewise, if you want to scan an area at a certain location for a great place to eat, your device is going to need a heading in order to overlay information over the top of your screen.
4. Optical Pattern Recognition & Augmented Reality
Imagine you’re on your way to a conference and you have a couple of hours to kill so you park yourself in the corner of a local bar to catch up on Mashable. You’ve barely begun reading when an attractive girl or guy catches your eye. You’re transfixed, your heart starts to race — you’re in love. But being the shy type you can’t just go over and introduce yourself, so instead you do a quick scan of the room with your cell phone to pick up any latent metadata. Unfortunately, a social network profile pops up informing you that the object of your affection is in a relationship. Your initial excitement rapidly dissipates and you get on with your reading.
That scenario is pretty far-fetched, but it’s one potential promise of Biometric Face Recognition technology that is already used by police and security services to help identify known criminals. 3 years ago Google acquired Neven Vision, a company that provides such technology. Google reported that it is using this technology in itsPicasa product to help keep your personal photos organized without you needing to do any of the actual organizing. I have literally thousands of pictures of my children and family on my computer at home. It would take me days to go through and tag each one so that I could search them more easily in the future. But at some point, Picasa might be able to tag everything for me automatically by recognizing faces and objects in my photos.
That’s still not quite to the level of our hypothetical, but Tochindot’s Sekai Camera and Wikitude are making in-roads into rich and immersive ambient metadata, too. Their current goals revolve around tagging inanimate objects, but someday biometric face recognition could be used to attach metadata to real people.
5. OpenID, OAuth, and the Identity Graph
Having to remember passwords for multiple accounts can be frustrating, and answering the same questions over and over on registration forms becomes tedious. Ten years from now, filling out our information once and then easily transferring it from place to place might be commonplace.
OpenID is an open authentication protocol that lets users use a single set of login credentials for every site they visit. It’s already in use at hundreds of smaller websites and large sites like Facebook are starting to accept OpenID accounts. Once you’ve authenticated, a second open protocol called OAuth will help you share data about yourself with other sites you use. OAuth lets your grant authorization to sites to collect data from other places you participate online, which ultimately could eliminate the need to fill in redundant information about your profile and who your friends are at each new site you use. And companies like Cliqset and DandyIDare creating platforms that will allow you to share your entire identity graph information from your profile to your contacts to your lifestream.
Together, these technologies could essentially eliminate the need to fill out forms and register for sites all together.
6. Mind Reading
My favorite scene from Back to The Future 2 is one in which Marty visits a 1980s-theme cafe where he sees some kids looking at his old favorite arcade game. Marty tells them he’s a “crack shot” but when he demonstrates the interface, the kids complain, “You have to use your hands!? That’s like a baby’s toy.” Classic.
But the idea of being able to control an interface without the use of your fine motor skills has massive implications for human computer interaction. Consider the ability to tweet what you’re thinking without having to pull your phone out of your pocket, type your message and hit send. Imagine being able to think ‘Facebook’ and your screen presents you with an overview of your friend’s activity stream. This method of interaction is at a very experimental stage but there are proofs-of-concept that exist. Most of this kind of innovation is currently intended to help people with limited motor skills, and not lazy social media addicts, however.
7. Natural Language Processing
Like Optical Pattern Recognition, Natural Language Processing (NLP) seeks to automatically categorize and understand that which humans understand with ease. By doing so, computers will be able to understand the requests and needs of their human users far better. Of course, talented programmers can already tell their computer to do things with ease, but the rest of us would benefit from applications that understand our curious ways of speaking.
Firefox’s Ubiquity is one project that’s attempting to change the way we interact with the web by allowing people to use natural language commands. Further, in the future, applications might exist that could analyze your tweets or comments with NLP, and suggest people or brands for you to follow.
Many of the technologies explored in this post are in their infancy, but they could have a profound effect on how we use the Internet and social media in the future. If you know of any other technologies that you feel might advance the future social media landscape please mention them in the comments.