The Ideal Computer Converges on Invisible

After watching the much anticipated release of the iPad, I had thoughts of advances I would build into a ground breaking computer. Why not incorporate gesture interface, projection technology (surface or eyes), and even neural interfaces into a revolutionary computer experience? My imagination followed a pattern which Kevin Kelly opened my mind’s eye to:

“As technology becomes ubiquitous it also becomes invisible. The more chips proliferate, the less we will notice them. The more networking succeeds, the less we’ll be aware of it.”

Why not push the extreme of what is possible by making computers nearly invisible? By minimizing the physicality of the computer, our attention can be fully focused on the experiences it enables. By trail blazing these designs, we can begin to reap the industrial era’s reward of reduced cost through mass production sooner, rather than later. And more importantly we can empower developers to build richer and more immersive software that isn’t hindered by old computing restraints.

The unit I envisioned will have a pair of glasses (neural interface, camera, and projection) with a complimentary pocket smartphone (computer, small display) that it connects to wirelessly. The glasses will have an optional overlay for people who wear prescription glasses (like myself). I imagine the initial units to be slightly bulky but iterative versions should converge on barely noticeable.

What do I need to make a prototype

An ideal set of resources would be access to the following:

  • the best gesture team (project Natal)
  • cutting edge tiny projector builders (3M)
  • next gen smartphone designers and developers (Android & iPhone, why lock in to one OS)
  • the best neural interface (Neural Sky or Emotiv)
  • budget to cover independent development and integration

Got a better design for the next evolution of the computer? Please share it in a post or comment. I wouldn’t worry about folks stealing your ideas, we all benefit when teams embrace and construct our abstract concepts. Who knows, maybe they’ll come back for more?

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  • Dave Pinsen

    “The unit I envisioned will have a pair of glasses”

    Have you read Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash (remember, one of Fred's recommended books?)? If not, go buy it. That's how people surfed the Metaverse in the book. They called it “goggling”, I think, instead of surfing.

  • Mark Essel

    I haven't yet.

    My fun reading is business, marketing, coding, design, and of course blogs of all flavors. Still chewing through Kevin Kelly's New Rules, Seth Godin's Linchpin, Design Patterns in Ruby, and Zen Unicorn by Seth when I have moments.

    I'm confident the tech exists now, but it's not all together.

  • Dave Pinsen

    Skip the Seth Godin (or read a blog post summary of his latest book) and you can make room for Snow Crash.

  • Mark Essel

    I would, but I'm loving Linchpin (parked it half way).

    Snow Crash is in the loop (I'll snag the ebook from Amazon or itunes if they get their ibook store working for devices other than ipad/iphone)

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  • oubiwann

    Love your post — thanks for sharing!

  • Mark Essel

    Glad you enjoyed it Duncan, my co-founder Tyler found your post and tuned me in so of course I thought to share mine. Hopefully we'll both see some fantastic “hands on” augmented devices to amplify our hacking fun.

  • woodsmicroprojector5couk

    I like your ideas a lot Mark and agree the technology needed for some of these is verging on usable.

    I think the computers that follow this logic will be completely invisible until needed and will serve us all better within our lives.

    You have got yourself a new subscriber ;)

    I have done some writing along similar lines – let me know what you think about these:

  • Tyler from Everyone Loves Tea

    read snow crash mark. its a life changing book

    and daemon.

    daemon is like a newer take on snow crash

  • Mark Essel

    Here's that link to what I'm working on now (the Present).

  • woodyh

    Thanks Mark – I shall have a read!

  • Kevin

    I think wearable computers are the way to go. These days most of us already pretty much have mobile computing systems with us whenever we leave the house in the form of iPhones, etc. Pico projectors give you the screen size you need to be effective at more tasks than a smartphone screen can give you. I like the wearable displays from Microvision and the Skinput that Microsoft is working on looks good too.

  • Mark Essel

    Thanks for taking the time to comment Kevin. I think we'll see these real revolutionary interfaces, just not as soon as I'd like :D

  • Vishy1618
  • Mark Essel

    I had not, thanks for sharing the links.