Monday, June 29, 2009

Google Continues to Add City Simulations to Its Growing Roster

Interactive 3d simulations of cities continue to proliferate:
Google Blog: Warsaw, Prague and Oslo have joined the growing list of phototextured cities in the 3D Buildings layer oGoogle Earth. Like other major cities these 3D models are predominantly autogenerated, yet they also contain a number of Google SketchUp models generated by the user community. While the autogenerated models are good quality, user-generated models are often better because ground-based photos can produce a higher quality model than ones generated using aerial imagery.

Friday, June 26, 2009

A Computer Screen That Recognizes and Shields Data From Unauthorized Users

Just as technology makes it easier to access more information, it's also enabling new ways to protect and segment that information. Case in point is a clever new computer system that recognizes unauthorized eye-contact and jumbles/encrypts the view of the screen from that person's POV. Pretty cool concept.

It'll be interesting to see how this technology develops and is applied. I could, for example, see it working with large digital billboards working in concert with smartphones transmitting real-time geospatial coordinates. You'd be able to, in theory, turn one generic sign into 50+ custom messages.

YouTube's Expanding Prosumer Pipeline

It is no surprise that the growing number of camera-equipped mobile devices, particularly the new iPhone 3G, is catalyzing an explosion of video content to YouTube.

YouTube reports:
In the last six months, we've seen uploads from mobile phones to YouTube jump 1700%; just since last Friday, when the iPhone 3GS came out, uploads increased by 400% a day.
Particularly interesting is Google's cognizance of this trend, as reflected in their efforts to facilitate / reduce barriers the flow of mobile video content to YouTube and then to social networks.
This growth represents three things coming together: new video-enabled phones on the market, improvements to the upload flow when you post a video to YouTube from your phone, and a new feature on YouTube that allows your videos to be quickly and effortlessly shared through your social networks. It takes just a minute to connect your YouTube account to your Facebook, Twitter and Google Reader accounts. Complete a simple, one-time connection on our upload page to allow all your friends and followers to get a real-time stream of your uploads to YouTube, which can be essential in this age of citizen reporting and ubiquitous sharing. (Bold emphasis mine.)
By expanding this prosumer pipeline, the forces at Google are yet again playing the positive-sum empowerment card in order to protect and expand their core prosumer base.

Less obviously, but perhaps more significantly, Google is reiterating its commitment to a faster web, making clear that their future vision includes high-bandwith life-streaming and life-logging, which makes a lot of sense considering their cognizance of the now more widely recognized exponential growth in digitized human information (as conveyed by the updated EMC information ticker) -- a trend that will clearly require a cascade of mobile video and other sensing to maintain its growth rate over the coming years.

After all, increasing the amount of rich content input is far more important to Google's strucutred data back-end and long-term than trivial matters such as the near-term monetization of YouTube. For them, it's all about the information, which means it's all about the prosumer.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Education in a Transforming World - Futurists Von Wolfsheild, Vita-More and Brigis (That's Me) On FastForward Radio Tonight

I'm happy to announce that I've been asked to appear as a last-minute fill-in on the first episode of FastForward Radio's The World Transformed series (TONIGHT) alongside accomplished futurists Reichart Von Wolfsheild (awesome name) and Natasha Vita-More (pretty cool name too). The episode will focus on education and the role we expect it to play in a world dominated by accelerating change. It is Part One of a riveting Ten-Part series that will include some of the biggest names in the forecasting field. More info on that later as host Phil Bowermaster releases details.

Here's the information about tonight's program as posted by Phil:

The World Transformed begins its landmark 10-week run on FastForward Radio with a discussion about the role that education, both formal and otherwise, has to play in preparing us for the astounding transformations to come.

Is your thinking future-ready?

Find out as futurists Reichart Von Wolfsheild, Natasha Vita-More and Alvis Brigis join hosts Phil Bowermaster and Stephen Gordon for a lively and eye-opening discussion about the vital first step we have to take in preparing for life in a world transformed: changing the way we think.

If you listen live you can contribute to the show by calling in or by joining the text chat. We'll be taking calls in the final half-hour. You can reach the show at (347) 215-8972. Our chat host Michael Darling will be on hand to lead the discussion.

Get all the details on listening live at our audio host, Blog Talk Radio.

The show starts at:

10:30 Eastern/9:30 Central/8:30 Mountain/7:30 Pacific.

About our guests:

  • Reichart Von Wolfsheild is the Chief Software Architect, CTO, Co-Founder of Qtask, which provides a comprehensive and secure web-based project management and collaboration environment for business. Reichart has more than 25 years of software and hardware design, and he specializes in complex platform software architecture, including cross-platform development, lossless compression technology, encryption, gambling systems, and multi-point real-time communication systems. He played a key role in the conception and creation of a wide array of entertainment titles including Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Die Hard, and Hot Wheels Crash. Reichart designed and created the award winning Walt Disney Animation Studio, and the multi-million dollar original video game franchise Return Fire™. He has also developed ground breaking training software used by law enforcement, the Olympics, the military, and the aerospace industry, including the Boeing RARO system, and co-developed the world's first consumer CD-ROM set-top box (CDTV).

  • Natasha Vita-More has been called by the New York Times the first female transhumanist philosopher. Her affiliations, past and present, include Extropy Institute, Transhumanist Arts & Culture, H+ Laboratory, Center for Responsible Nanotechnology, World Transhumanist Association, Alcor Foundation, Zero Gravity Arts Consortium, and Foresight Institute. Her talks and writings include "Talent for Living: Cracking the Myths of Mortality" - talk presented at Alcor 4th Technology Conference, 2000; "Sensorial Mix - The Future of the Senses" - talk presented at EXTRO4, Berkeley, California, 1999; and "Ageless Thinking" - Resources for Independent Thinking, Oakland, CA 1996.

  • Alvis Brigis is a media producer, futurist and entrepreneur with a specialty in evolving communications. His diverse background includes roles on projects such as the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Model Search (NBC), MotorMouth (VH1), Virtual Laguna Beach, and The Metaverse Roadmap. He is Co-Founder of, where he writes about intelligence amplification spurred by accelerating technology, communication and information domains.

  • Friday, June 19, 2009

    Wikipedia is Finally Upgrading to Video

    After 8 years of steady growth Wikipedia is finally upgrading to video:

    Technology Review: Within two to three months, a person editing a Wikipedia article will find a new button labeled "Add Media." Clicking it will bring up an interface allowing her to search for video--initially from three repositories containing copyright-free material--and drag chosen portions into the article, without having to install any video-editing software or do any conversions herself. The results will appear as a clickable video clip embedded within the article.

    I'm sure it's going to be awesome, very useful and empowering for prosumers. But, still, what the fork took them so long? Answer: Funding. Counter: So why not sell ads? Counter: But we're a non-profit. Counter: So what?

    And when will the foundation implement other powerful web 2.oldschool features such as dynamic comment threads, geospatial data and basic social networking? Answer: When they have the necessary funding.

    The opportunities are endless, but the organizational will for aggressive (and very do-able) innovation just has not been there.

    Social Graph on Your Sleeve - A Memory Shirt that Combats Forgetfullness

    Former President Bill Clinton was notorious for knowing the name of everyone he ever met. He accomplished this by directing aides to quickly screen people he was about to meet and then whisper that information to him just prior to the handshake moment.

    Now, thanks to an innovation called the "Memory Shirt", most of us will soon have the ability to appear socially cognizant of the people we meet, especially those we've already met before, thus amplifying our physical social networking and avoiding some annoyingly awkward situations rooted in memory discrepancy.

    Very cool product, but, personally, I think I'll wait for the contact lens version, which shouldn't be very far behind. :)

    Thursday, June 18, 2009

    The Simulation Era

    Simulation, aka the ability to generate knowledge maps in various formats and languages, resides at the heart of the convergence that is expanding human capability and driving the systemic creation of knowledge. It is absolutely critical to accelerating change in information, technology, problem solving, etc, and deserves a more central role in our models of economy, intelligence, society and living systems.

    Accordingly, it is no accident that the market for humans who generate complex simulations is growing, as reported by the NYTimes earlier this week:

    "Bill Waite, chairman of the AEgis Technologies Group, a Huntsville, Ala., company that creates simulations for various military and civilian applications ... estimates that 400,000 people make a living in the United States in one aspect or another of simulation. His company employs close to 200 people, with an average salary of $85,000."
    Of course, thinkers such as Richard Florida, Rise of the Creative Class, and Alvin Toffler, The Third Wave, have long argued that society's demand for creative prosumers is expanding as we continue to free up brains for abstract endeavors not directly tied to classic survival behavior. Only now, having seen the formation and resulting efficiencies of simulations such as Google Earth (geospatial), Wikipedia (lingual, memetic), Blue Brain (human brain), Blue Gene (genomic), Facebook (social), fictional Virtual Worlds (imagination), etc, we can confidently confirm that these prescient forecasts were indeed right on the money.

    But how far back does simulation go? And what role does it play in our broader life system, not just social, informational and technologicial systems?

    Philosopher Jean Baudrillard, who has many great thoughts to offer on the matter, posits that simulation began with modern media technology. But I think that's a bit too clunky and binary, if you will, especially considering the work on conceptual metaphors as the basis of thought done by cognitive theorists such as Steven Pinker. Though Baudrillard's focus on externalized technology vs. internal processing of reality is very useful when analyzing a stretch of human history, it doesn't fit well with long-term and acceleration models. (Great work, but the abstractions need to be pruned to fit with modern theory. I do think that the hyper-reality argument has a lot of merit. More on that in the future.)

    So where then do we turn for an updated version of this thinking?

    In his recent excellent Atlantic Monthly article, Get Smarter, futurist Jamais Cascio convincingly argues the critical nature of simulation in human history, citing neurophysiologist William Calvin's research on our evolutionary development:
    "According to Calvin, the reason we survived is that our brains changed to meet the challenge: we transformed the ability to target a moving animal with a thrown rock into a capability for foresight and long-term planning [aka simulation]. In the process, we may have developed syntax and formal structure from our simple language."
    Technology scholar and Singularity proponent Ray Kurzweil goes even broader in his assertion, contained in The Singularity is Near, that the ability to model, or simulate, is essential to life forms of varying complexity:
    "[T]he more complex any system becomes, the better it models the universe that engendered it, and the better it seems to understand its own history and environment, including the physical chain of singularities that created it." "..there is something about the construction of the universe itself, something about the nature and universal function of local computation that permits, and may even mandate, continuously accelerating computational development in local environments."
    My personal take on the matter (original article), in alignment with both Cascio and Kurzweil's views, is that as organisms evolve and life's complexity increases, new species with brains capable of greater quantification and abstraction (simulation!) emerge at a regular clip. Over time, these organisms discover ways to expand their knowledge by communicating (actively or passively) information to one another and letting the network manage their quantifications and decisions. Then, eventually, the higher-level organisms figure out how to extend their knowledge into the environment through technology that allows them to communicate and retrieve it more easily than before. This is accomplished directly through technologies like language, writing, or classical maps, and indirectly through the hard-technologies like spears, paint, and paper that critically support knowledge externalization.

    In other words, I believe that simulation plays a critical role in not only the evolution and development of the human species, but also of all forms of life on this planet and probably in our known universe (as suggested by recent findings that physical matter millions of light years distant closely resembles our own).

    Consequently, I find it likely that we will soon discover a proof, power law or other theorem
    for complex systems that correlates increased simulational ability with increased 1) control over environment and 2) survivability. It may look a little bit like the following diagram, with the added explanation that simulation drives the creation of more knowledge as our informational inputs are expanded by technology that steadily increases the data we mine from withion our environment (inner space) and across the universe (outer space):

    This perspective or paradigm is useful in that it can 1) help us recontextualize and simplify much of what's going on in exploding domains such as search, the semantic web and structured data for enterprise, and 2) help to streamline the abstractions we use to describe our system upn which we can then build cleaner new theories.

    It's particularly interesting to observe the web trending toward advanced simulation. As I noted above, many of the web's most valuable properties are rooted in super-simulations - massive bodies of structured data that can be viewed as a whole or sub-sections. It is clear that the major players are now racing to add both more data and more structure to these simulations in order to fend off sharp-witted competitors and amass more resources, a very life-like behavior indeed.

    Math savant Stephen Wolfram, the big brain behind "computational knowledge engine" Wolfram Alpha, who has written convincingly about his belief that life evolves from basic micro-interactions that he describes using the example of cellular automata, lends credence to the argument, claiming that search engines will soon have the ability to "simulate in real time based on [text input] descriptions", which makes sense to me considering the growing amount of structured data (thanks in large part to an increase in data, semantic tagging and knowledge engines such as Alpha, Google and IBM's enterprise quantification software) that can easily be converted into visual formats and models.

    Wolfram then extrapolates this capability, suggesting that search may subseqently move onto "creat[ing] things that have never been created before, in real time".

    That's right. One of the brightest structural minds on the planet sees our knowledge processors first becoming amazing simulators, then using that simulation data to piece together new structures that have never existed. (Pretty cool that he's also running an influential business.)

    It kinda sounds like the human process known as thought or imagination, the ongoing processes of input-sorting-output, just dramatically scaled and accelerated. Which brings us full circle to my initial assertion that simulation is a critical component of accelerating change and to the tandem argument that it deserves a more central role in our models of economy, intelligence, society and living systems.
    CONCLUSION: Simulation is crucial not just to our contemporary economy, but to life's knowledge engine(s) at many different levels. Understanding this can help us to better simulate our environment, history and future.

    • By using quantifiable terms like simulation in concert with updated and rigorous definitions of information and knowledge, we can begin to move away from and/or bring clarity to subjective and scientifically problematic terms such as "intelligence" and "the human". This may well prove critically important for unified knowledge (insightful paper) and information theory efforts.
    • By more actively crediting the power and role of simulation in our system and behavior we can develop better understanding of the importance of simulations and thus allocate resources more efficiently. This may lead us to the realization that many or even all humans contribute to our simulation economy, more-or-less directly (everyone a part-time quantifier?). The ability to measure this could have profound impact on prosumer behavior. (This should make simulation and serious games advocates/experts like the grossly underappreciated Clark Aldrich happy.)
    • By viewing simulation as en essential component of knowledge creation we can develop better understanding of culture and social dynamics, and develop better metrics for social change, stress and transformation.
    • By better measuring simulation, we can prove or disprove the argument that the creation of better abstractions fuels the Flynn effect, steadily expanding general human intelligence.
    • By developing our understanding of the role of simulations, we can develop better testable theories re: universal computation and the possibility of simulation chains (add some meat to Bostrom's ultra-subjective simulation argument and its predecessors).
    We are simulators. It's in our nature to get better at simulating the present, past and future - the entire system around us. And now that we've entered the knee of some powerful accelerating curves, it's becoming clear that we're about to take our simulating behavior to the next level. With the help of simulation enhancers like Google, Facebook, Alpha (that make economic sense) and new cultural norms, it is highly probable that we are going to 1) increase the complexity of our simulations (drive new knowledge), 2) increase the number of humans directly dedicated to to complex simulation and 3) increase the number of humans indirectly employed to contribute to the formation of simulations.

    After all, it's in our interest, as living beings who want to survive and figure our or universe, to do so.

    Enter the Simulation Era.

    The whole of science is nothing more than a refinement of everyday thinking.

    Wednesday, June 17, 2009

    Using 'Declarative Technology' to Scale 3d Models and Accelerate Rich Simulation

    Now this is what I call serious capability-enhancing STEM Compression:

    Prosumer Takeaways: Soon we will all be creating simulations on par with DreamWorks and Pixar (high end personal computers can already match the renderings their server farms were busting out years ago). And as the simulation phase space expands, so too will our economy and intelligence.

    Annotating the Physical World - How Much Augmented Reality Cake Will Layar Take?

    Imagine pointing your iphone at different locations around you to reveal geographically pertinent annotations and/or other media that people have deposited there. Now there's an app for that.

    In futurist circles, this basic world-as-web scenario has been discussed for years (I even worked on one such forecasting project), if not decades. The simplest version of the concept has always been an application that intuitively and instantly blends real-time first-person physical world experience with the valuable data contained Wikipedia, Yelp or other websites, allowing you to instantly access stats about restaurants, concert venues, parks, car dealerships, schools, businesses, etc, that you encounter in your view. Such an app could, for example, provide information about a certain shrub in your yard, allowing quick access to species data, historical photos and related ads from the local lawncare services. Now, thanks to the convergence of smart phones and real-time geo-sensing, a new Android app (iPhone app out shortly) called Layar, marketed as the "World's First Augmented Reality Browser", claims it can accomplish exactly that... and then some.

    Here's the impressive demo vid released by the developer, SPRX Mobile:

    Obviously there's no guarantee that Layar will take the cake (haha, get it - Layar. Cake. - rewriting headline... love bad puns...), especially considering that the Gigantor info companies already have scores of AR-hip forecasters, researchers and developers on payroll, but 1) it is possible the small company could blow up very quickly to become one of the first critical three into the market, and 2) either way, it certainly does look as though somebody is going to create a compelling and quickly diffusable AR app in the very near-term.

    Why? Because it's so obviously useful.

    Just take a look at this (somewhat crude, but very useful) vision of what AR might look like over the coming years:

    Prosumer Value: Easily-to-use AR will have a profound impact on the average prosumer, opening up massive phase space for new content and services. They will of course benefit from the efficiencies inherent in mashing together all this data, but, more interestingly, they will also play an critical role in writing content to these new layers and innovating new applications that interact with this new structured content.

    Another Basic Scenario - Ever seen those Google Street View cars with panoramic cameras driving around? Well, imagine this. As component and web costs continue to plummet, it will VERY SOON become for individuals to hook cheap cameras to always-on smart-phones and then broadcast increasingly richer streaming data feeds to the web. It will then be possible to sort this data according to geography (GPS), identity (facial recognition, already getting very good), annotation (voice recognition is just on the cusp), and so forth. This means that some information giant with gazillions of servers will probably find it compelling to incentivize the population of their given information platform. (Google? Microsoft? Yahoo? IBM? Apple?)

    Data will of course drop in value as a square to these feeds (inevitable ongoing commoditization), but will that offset the creation of millions of new Feed or Real-Time Quantification jobs? Even if they are low-paying, I find it likely that they will pay out (per capita) on par with, say, Google Adsense, thus opening a whole new market for real-time geo logging/blogging. In fact, I find it likely that this same infrastructure (Adsense, Facebook Connect's forthcoming payment system, PayPal, Microsoft's Content Ad Network) will be used to facilitate payments to proliferating content harvesters, ultimately leading to a great blur between traditional corporate structures and an ever-expanding prosumer cloud (prosumer centralization?).

    At the same time, the new applications written atop these new web layers will catalyze a whole new app industry and additional opportunities down the road. No doubt that niche players will counter ongoing prosumer centralization with micro-federations of their own, similar to how the old-media / new-media game has played out.

    Context: Made possible by broader innovation convergence, geo-coordinted augmented reality is on the cusp of becoming reality for millions, then billions. Fundamentally, it represents new phase space that will not only lead to big-time near-term market efficiencies, but also contribute to accelerating convergence and open even more phase space. Like the 3D web, it's a formidable catalyst that will contribute to economic, informational and cultural transformation. And it's here, now.

    Monday, June 15, 2009

    Mark Zuckerberg Getting Hip to the Mandate of Kevin

    Recent public statements by the socially awkward (but getting better now that he's feeling more comfortable in his own nerdy skin) Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg have at last convinced me that the second-largest and most-valuable social network is increasingly growing cognizant of its dependency on the prosumer. Zuckerberg's updated thoughts on decentralization (understanding the inevitability), monetization (finding the right niches) and democratization (a big theme in his recent interviews and statements) should serve to pacify those in the blogosphere who have been calling for his head in light of internal drama, digital rights debacles and a totally debunked revenue crisis.

    Decentralization (above): "We're big believers in the idea that over time the value will decentralize from just being on Facebook to being spread out over the eco-system. Ultimately I think that's a really good thing. I think that's it's good for the web to have all of that functionality built into these different applications and I think that the place that Facebook will hold in the ecosystem will move more away from being a website to being more this platform and this representation of the graph." Full vid interview here.

    In light of 1) the recent web chatter that Facebook and Twitter should be positioning to monetize their information through search, 2) Twitter's successful open developer strategy, 3) Zuckerberg's assertion that Facebook can expand its Connect platform to become a newfangled version of PayPal, and 4) the success of cross-platform comment app, it seems obvious that Facebook is being tugged toward decentralization. The question is, how will Facebook manage decentralization, granular content control, and integration with other apps? The company seems to have realized that it must keep its prosumer nation happy. Hopefully understanding that this makes good business sense will make for a better Facebook experience. Ultimately, this approach will be key to keeping open-source competitors at arms length.

    Monetization: "I think [a Facebook payment system] has the potential to be really important. Its potential correlates with how valuable it is to developers and users. There’s a bunch of things that we test as a company, and we basically choose what to invest in based on what people are doing. I don’t really have anything new to add to the information that you already have on this. ... But based on how our tests go, we may choose to do a lot more. We’re pretty optimistic [about the potential performance of the payments service], but we don’t really have a sense of how big it will be yet either. I do think it is one interesting area."

    Thoughtful, deliberate testing is key for a company of that size. A payment system seems critical, especially if the bigger goal is to empower constituent prosumers as they transfer data and content. Listening to users is Rule #1 of web businesses. Allowing them the freedom to discover the value, then amplifying those processes and monetizing indirectly seems like the rule of thumb for large prosumer businesses looking to innovate rapidly. Gotta stay in tune with that moving target known as the Mandate of Kevin.

    Democratization: "Growing rapidly to 200 million users is a really good start, but we've always known that in order for Facebook to help people represent everything that is happening in their world, everyone needs to have a voice. This is why we are working hard to build a service that everyone, everywhere can use, whether they are a person, a company, a president or an organization working for change. ... There are still many more people and groups in the world whose voices we want to connect with everyone who wants to hear them. So even as we celebrate the 200 millionth person and all of you using Facebook today, we are working to bring the power of sharing to everyone in the world."

    Many will chalk up this talk as rhetorical fluff, but given that Zuckerberg seems to be taking a personal stake in the gradual democratization of Facebook, I think it's quite likely the company will increasingly take the allegiance of the prosumer base more seriously. Why? Because that's where the money will come from.

    Prosumer Empowerment = $$$$$$: Really, it is irrelevant whether or not Zuckerberg's recent public posturing is rooted in genuine benevolence. What matters is that the Facebook apparatus appears to be smart enough to realize that Monetization opportunities are correlated with the Empowerment that comes with natural Decentralization and/or Democratization, thus abiding by the Mandate of Kevin and developing a increasingly compelling system that will deliver more informational and financial value to its users - the 200 million + and growing Kevins. - Actually Useful Real-Time Image Search

    For the first time I have encountered a somewhat useful real-time visual search engine. Thanks to a timely tweet by friend & documentary filmmaker Graeme Lowry, I'm now aware of PicFog, a relatively new service that scours recent twit-pics for tags. It's particularly relevant for current events and regional search results, offering a quickly digestible snapshot collage of real-time coverage and reactions.

    For example, check out the huge volume of PicFog results concerning "Iran" (thanks to Graeme for the link) right on the heels of the Ahmadinejad's re-election. Clearly, such results and/or streams will play an interesting role in near-future of media, particularly as 1) pic volume increases (as a square to affordability of input devices and total planetary info), 2) the results incorporate Creative Commons licensing, and 3) the results begin to include HD video.

    We are the media mob.

    Update: Jorgen Chee also recommends comparable service, saying it's less likely to crash, probably because it caps the number of image search results displayed on a single page.

    Sunday, June 14, 2009

    U.S. Debt Will Nearly Equal Annual GDP in 2011

    The U.S. Office of Management and Budget projects that in 2011 our national debt will equal 97% of the country's yearly GDP. This will diminish national value stores and influence unless we can use the pressure to redefine our values, empower human capital and develop prosumer opportunities.

    That news is especially scary considering the context of 1) steady and massive increase in Social Security payments due - MORE $ PRINTED / INFLATION, 2) impeding peak oil production and consumption - HIGHER COSTS, 3) potentially necessary investments in disconnected conflict regions such as North Korea, Japan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, African Nations, perhaps even Mexico, - INCREASED EXPENDITURES and 4) growing pressure to replace the dollar as the primary international reserve currency - DROPPING $ VALUE, DECREASED MARKET INFLUENCE, INCREASED SECURITY COSTS?.

    Silver Lining: The socio-economic environment is more attuned to powerful, scalable solutions. Web-based innovation, collaboration and prosumer empowerment is being encouraged by the market. Sort-term creative destruction can expand and fertilized the phase space for rapid innovation.

    Though it will add to short-term national exposure to risk, Obama's pledge to bring science spending (essentially a U.S. R&D and human development investment) is the the main counter to massive spending. It's the Great American Bet and will determine our national role in the near-term future world.

    Thanks to poly sci prof David Mason at End of the American Century for the info. Be sure to check out his analysis.

    Thursday, June 11, 2009

    Praise the Lord of the Web! Google Finally Launches Creative Commons Image Search

    To date, whenever I've needed free-to-use Creative Commons 2.0 or 2.5 images for blog posts or other projects I've been relegated to either Wikipedia or Flickr for my image searches. No longer will that be the case, thanks to a typically simple, yet broadly important
    Google Image Search added the option to restrict the results to images that are licensed using Creative Commons, a list of flexible licenses that allow content creators to share their works with the world.

    The options aren't yet available in the interface, but you can
    use the search box [here] to find images that are licensed using some of the most popular Creative Commons licenses.
    The new CC search is already turning up great results and will clearly be an invaluable prosumer resource for years to come. It's certainly going to make this blog more visually appealing, entertaining and just plain weird (sometimes the image results are just too funny to not include in a piece, no matter how tangentally relevant, ie this is the first CC 2.5 result for the search term "future").

    So I'm now flipping the hourglass as I await full-on Creative Commons integration for YouTube. Keep bringing it, Google. I dare you to make my life even easier. Meow.

    And the Largest Social Media Site on Earth is... China's QQ - Not Facebook

    Here's an interesting tidbit for ya.  According to recent Alexa and Google Trends stats compiled by web marketer Vincenzo Cosenza, China's QQ site (this must be how the rest of the non-english speaking world views Facebook and Myspace) reigns supreme as the most trafficked social networking site on the planet, boasting 300+ million monthly unique users (that's nearly as many as this blog).  The knowledge serves as an important reminder that the rest of the world is just as interested in the web and that competition, cooperation and disruption will increasingly come from different directions, especially as human resources and markets are equalized in the coming years.  

    Wildcards: Look to shifts in currency value, robust real-time translation tools and emerging micro-credit and service/good-barter markets to even out the international value of prosumers. 

    Monday, June 8, 2009

    Adding Avatars to Email Increases Response Rates

    Social web design aficionado Joshua Porter reports that Rypple, a client of his that manages enterprise idea feedback systems to increase workplace creativity and productivity, noticed a 15-20% increase in email response rate when users personalized their messages by including basic avatars representing themselves.

    Joshua commented: That’s some food for thought…there aren’t many ways to increase response rates that much that easily…this also adds another data point to the importance of avatars in social design.

    Combine this data point with Seriosity's finding that basic email token systems can dramatically increase the rate of email consumption and it becomes clear that 1) there is still great room for improvement in our email systems, which bodes well for new forms of messaging like the potentially breakthrough Google Wave, and 2) much of that innovation will occur through systems that can most quickly provide the email consumer with a rich snapshot of data (micro-topsight) that convinces them to invest their time in consuming and/or replying to a message.

    The recent spurt of email innovations is a necessary systemic response to the explosion of messaging, feeds and general information directed at every web-using human, a welcome development that will increase the quality of our communication in the face of growing volume. By adding more structure to our micro-communications we will triumph over data overload.

    At the same time, the new interfaces and protocols that we adopt to communicate more quickly and effectively will change our culture in ways that most hard-tech focused futurists have not yet explored.

    Even as human entrepreneurs move onto new systems and innovation phase space, the global brain continues to evolve its most basic mechanisms.

    Tuesday, June 2, 2009

    Hands-Free XBox and Wii Interfaces Will Give Microsoft and Nintendo a Data Collection Edge

    On the heels of Google's potentially revolutionary Wave announcement, Steve Ballmer's Microsoft has dropped a future bomb of its own: a hands-free, emotionally responsive XBox control system that could disrupt and expand the video game industry much like the Wii did eons ago in 2006.

    Unveiled yesterday at E3, the new Natal system has been evoking rave reviews arcoss the blogosphere. Some choice phrases: "game-changer", "seminal moment not just in video games, but in technology too", "disabled gaming revolution?", and the more cautious "seems to hold a lot of potential, with some possible technical limitations".

    Particularly interesting is Natal's ability to scan objects, such as a skateboard, and bring them into the game, as demonstrated in the promo video below:

    Not to be outdone, Nintendo has also announced a lighter-weight hands-free control interface for the Wii, releasing this workout demo on the heels of Microsoft's big announcement:

    Prosumer Takeaways: While not all that surprising from from the futurist perspective (these sorts of interfaces have been in the labs for years, even popping up in shopping malls way ahead of their time, RIP Matt Bell's Reactrix) hands-free interfaces sure do have the potential to make possible Minority Report-esque interfaces, enable whole new gaming genres, allow people to interact with rich media in public places, lay the foundations for hands-free mobile iPhones, Zunes and Androids, and so forth. (Truly a disruptive multiplier.)

    That said, I wonder how other non-gaming companies are going to react to 1) the new interfaces themselves and 2) the information generated by hands free play. I'm sure they'll all race to incorporate them into their own devices and systems. For Google that may be done via external developers working with the Android platform. But that will take some time and perhaps some big new plays in hardware or cloud-based gmaing systems (facilitated by more efficient compression, coordination and streaming software), which leaves Microsoft, Nintendo and possibly Sony (they can't be far behind) with a unique window of opportunity to create marketplaces for the gestural/behavioral data generated and captured through these systems. I bet that's how Google sees it.

    Who will win that niche search war?

    Update #1: Sony, too, has announced it's getting into the motion capture game, albeit with a hand-held, gyroscope-free stick used as visual reference for a camera. Apparently the controller outperforms the current Wii stick. The controller arrives in early 2010.