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Cell phones, micro-projectors & GPS to give rise to “metavision”?

Imagine a world hidden from our eyes, one of words, pictures and movies, on almost any surface, anywhere in the world. Imagine this invisible world being all around you, out of sight yet close at hand. And to see this new world? You’d need nothing more than a next generation mobile phone…

Imagine a world hidden from our eyes, one of words, pictures and movies, on almost any surface, anywhere in the world. Imagine this invisible world being all around you, out of sight yet close at hand. And to see this new world? You’d need nothing more than a next generation mobile phone…

Like most things in life, the fun things start out in practical ways, like most sports, for example. Let me take you to a future world, where irresistible technologies open doors that are difficult to close.

From concept to cockpit to classroom to coat pocket — this is metavision

laser ligth 'building graffiti'

Think of the fighter pilot trying to land on an aircraft carrier in the dead of night. His success relies almost entirely on the vision of the aircraft within which he’s surrounded.

Out there in front him, in between the ink black sea and sky is a floating city of steel, which he is effectively blind to. But his aircraft knows. And in his HUD (Heads-Up Display), he sees the vessel, marked by a series of lines & numbers, marking such things as his speed, angle of approach and distance.

Now think of the work by Xiang Cao and Ravin Balakrishnan and their hand-held projector & pen device:

“Imagine being able to turn any surface into one that’s interactive. That’s certainly what Xiang Cao and Ravin Balakrishnan have been working on with their “handheld projector and a pen” concept.

As the video illustrates, it’s not like the projector moves the interactive area around the room. The entire surface of the room is itself a canvas. The projector simply limits what you can see of that canvas at any one time.”

Now consider a feature by the New York Times, delving into the nascent market of micro-projectors:

“These devices, when plugged into cellphones and portable media players, will let consumers beam video content from their hand-held devices to the closest smooth surface — entertaining themselves, annoying their neighbors…”

Taking a technological leap forward, why not just incorporate the projector right into the mobile phone itself:

“The ‘Nano Projector’ is capable of throwing a 20in image onto a screen or wall, yet is small enough to fit inside existing phones.”

We already understand how seemingly benign technologies can be misused and infringe on someone’s copyright:

“By way of an example, look at the cameras built into mobile phones. In Japan, children and teenagers have been banned from news agents because of a spate of thefts involving kids photographing entire magazines and then sending the pages onto friends to read later.”

However, technology itself isn’t “evil”, it’s the hidden agenda of those developing or using technologies that can at times manifest itself in harmful ways.

But by accepting that technology can be used by different people in different ways, what might we see happen when mobile phones equipped with micro-projectors and GPS hit the market?

How long before someone develops an application that gives rise to a whole new class of graffiti? A kind of visual, virtual vandalism visible only to kids subscribed to a particular Social Network, perhaps?

Imagine them stood there in unison close to a wall somewhere along the desolate sidings of a railway shunting yard, arms outstretched, mobile phones in hand, projecting onto an anonymous grey slab of concrete a music video, a slogan or a cryptic message.

Now imagine a world only visible to what we might one day call metavision — accessible only to cell phones with micro-projectors and GPS, or similarly equipped devices.

Could someone daub this electronic graffiti over the entire surface of a public building and that act not be illegal, simply because it’s not publicly visible?

Metavision in a positive light

Of course, there are positives to this kind of technology, too. Sharing video clips and photos with friends & family becomes a much more enjoyable experience. So too for impromptu presentations to small teams of colleagues or classes of students.

Public utilities service providers could use much the same technology to determine the location of power lines, as well as gas and water mains.

With a similar, more powerful projector, they could outline the services beneath the ground with absolute precision.

On the smaller scale, companies like B&Q could equip their drilling & cutting tools to know where electric cabling is within a wall, ceiling or floor, or a load-baring part of the house. An audible alarm, similar to that of a Geiger counter could sound as the operator gets too close. Or a small display could visually display the proximity.

In addition to the night vision the armed forces use, being able to see distinct features marked as hostile or friendly would help reduce “friendly fire” situations, since each soldier or ordnance would be carrying its own secure GPS unit.

Of course, their GPS would be much more precise that commercial offerings. Also, they might work with powerful head-mounted projectors that use frequencies of light beyond the perception of the human eye; such as infrared or ultraviolet.

Closer to home, the SatNav (Satellite Navigation) units in our cars would be given a new lease of life, turning busy city streets into living maps and nighttime country roads into safe passages to work or home.

Taking that concept further, supplementary road markings and street signage could well exist entirely as projected light onto the busiest roads of city streets.

In this vision of a future world, aglow with shimmering lights and eerie visuals cast as ghostly images across doors, windows, walls, the backs of coats, curtains and sofas, we are the projectionists of a new paradigm of mobile visual communication…

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By Wayne Smallman

Wayne is the man behind the Blah, Blah! Technology website, and the creator of the Under Cloud, a digital research assistant for journalists and academics.

4 replies on “Cell phones, micro-projectors & GPS to give rise to “metavision”?”

Very interesting. I always speculate where the next interesting leg of technology will come from. It seems we will plateau for a bit, other than quicker downloads and better video resolution. Nano is still a long time coming before any practical applications make a difference. Even content is leveling off. It may be this way for awhile aside from a few minor improvements here and there.

Hi Karl, earlier today, I found a report bt AT&T regarding how they think the internet will hit its limit by 2010.

If they’re right, here’s where we see fibreoptic and exotic compression technologies coming into their own.

If you’re interested in nanotechnology, I wrote a Serious Science article on how nanotechnology might kill the upgrade cycle.

When I look at the world, while change seems gradual on the larger scale, the reality is, progress is punctuated by bursts of innovation, like the motorcar and the aeroplane, as examples.

The underlying technology is sometimes iterative, but it’s the ideas that are usually innovative and monumental…

Wayne, you gave alot of thoughtful consideration to that topic. Good job. I like what i see with your blog, from its name to the great info inside. You deserve more readership, and i will make it a point to pop in from time to time or pass your stuff along.

Thanks for the reply, dude. Much appreciated.

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