Blurring the lines: Innovations

You just have to watch this video of the innovation that MIT Media Lab’s Fluid Interfaces group created. Like all innovations that blur the lines between two or more ways of experiencing or doing things, this innovation is breathtaking.

In this innovation, Pranav Mistry and his team blur the lines – the projection target is not your gaming console or computer/projection screen – it is any projectable surface. Extending the idea, the interaction is not through the keyboard or mouse or through a gaming console, but through simple hand movements that are captured through motion sensing.

Applying it to commercial uses, Pranav uses the technology to blur the lines between an internet database and common uses such as buying a product or finding if your flight is delayed, between a group of users and common uses such as collaboration to create a 3D model (look at inkuitive on the list of projects on Pranav’s home page).

If you look at TaPuMa (again on the list of projects on Pranav’s home page), you can see how the lines are blurred again – take a wristwatch, put it on a console or in front of a scanner, and it tells you which duty free shop in the airport terminal where you are standing, sells the watch. Interestingly put, Pranav states:

The broad concept behind the project TaPuMa is ‘Object Amelioration’, where the functions of everyday objects can be expanded by using their affordances or functionalities in a variety of different contexts.

Microsoft Tag (and other existing mechanisms like QR Codes) is blurring the lines by merging print with online experiences. VoiceThread blurred the lines by allowing a phone to web integration of user comments. Others are blurring the lines in many other ways and using many other devices (see iPhone apps, social media/network integration, Film 2.0).

The lines are really what we are used to doing. Blurring them causes us to react emotionally and with surprise at the possibility (with more than a little awe, too) which is in front of us but we had not thought of or thought possible. When the dust settles, we look for the utility of these innovative ideas, the cost, the production capabilities and the availability.

What is really interesting is that perhaps a simple analytical process of juxtaposing two or more different types of objects, experiences, media etc. can be the starting point and result in innovative ideas such as these. Many of them may not be implementable given the current state of technology, many implemented only through  sheer genius and lots of them may be already taken, but there is really a whole universe there waiting to be explored.

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