Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Search for the Holy Grail

Wouldn't it be way cool to bend space-time to your will and peer into the future or stand witness to the past with fresh eyes? Though as Master Yoda would say from a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far, away, "Always in motion the future is". Yet the allure of peering into "what's next" is just so captivating and exciting.

Take my initial reaction to Appleinsider's post on Intel's next generation mobile chip based on Penryn that is expected to come out sometime next year. It is quad core and it is mobile.

What's so exciting about this is that finally--- power comes to mobile. it caught me by surprise because a few weeks ago, i've been looking at the Intel roadmap to help plan for future technology purchases. The illusive holy grail (i.e. wishful thinking on my part) is to consolidate all my technology needs into one device, preferably one that I could take with me anywhere, where i could work anywhere. It would be nice to just have one box that does it all for me--- raw power to do all my "playing around with," and mobility.

If you've been looking at new PCs and Macs, you'd find the world to be moving towards Multi Core. They're essentially many "cpus" in one. The technology enthusiast may find this Ars Technica article to be of interest, where they mull over the implications of leaping ahead to an 80-core chip world.

Anyway going to back to the here and now: sadly, the ranges of laptops across the mobile computing spectrum (yes, both Macs and PCs) are so disappointing. Which is why for me, the mobile quad is a welcome product in spite knowing that at least for the foreseeable future, will affect only a tiny bit of the computing population. Mobile Quads are for people who would trade battery life (never a good thing when going mobile) versus performance and most people--- who browse the web, who do word processing, spreadsheet, presentation work wouldn't benefit from such technology at all. Though I have my reservations about it, still it would be worth considering in 18 months.

While we're in the topic of mobility. I remembered coming across this video on YouTube. It is from Intel, and their vision for the UltraMobile PC. Their vision of future computing is that you get to wear your device.

ultra mobile pc

Sounds a bit too impossible? Hey! Flying cars are here now and... they sort of work. So why not wear your device? come to think of it, with the iPod shuffle, isn't that the beginning of wearable devices?

The technology in the video is actually here now. Well, maybe you can't command your computer to do stuff as depicted in the video and today's ultramobilepcs are just plain ugly (even from guys like Samsung).

Still, much of the underlying infrastructure is here, which translate to knowing it is do-able. With devices like iPhone (which makes the whole umpc genre look sexy as well as useable) and many other similar devices approaching us on the horizon, expect this future to begin to make an impact in our lives in as little as 5 years.

Speaking of the iPhone, David Pogue of the New York Times blogged about Multi-Touch screens, which is one of the features of iPhone and of future UltraMobilePCs (as seen in the video). Multi-Touch is a fascinating piece of technology, right out of Minority Report. And yes, it is a viable piece of technology that is here, just not in the hands of ordinary consumers.

jeff han and his multi-touch screen

If you must ask, the YouTube video above is indeed real. This technology exist now and one of the pioneers is Jeff Han of New York University. You can find him narrating this bit of technology over at lastminuteblog.

Another appealing piece of technology coming to town is Joost. It is, as the proponents behind it have called it: TV, the way you want it. It combines old school television with business-model disrupting new media of the Internet. The idea isn't really new. Just ask the Bittorrenting, TiVo cradling, DVR/PVR running crowd. It is however an excellent one.

Upon joining joost beta (i had to wait a few weeks for the registration to be approved), you download a client and you create a username. You then get to channel surf. Pick one and it gets sent to your Computer. Now, i've had problems trying it out when what i wanted to watch wasn't available. I suspect it is largely because my Internet connectivity (in the speed-of-molasses-range of 370kbps down, dsl and); joost recommends at least 1Mbps down.

I don't know yet if this is a feature. I haven't explored joost enough to know, but it would be really nice if joost would be more TiVo/MythTV/Bittorrent like that you get to choose before hand what you want to download and it fetches it in the background while you work and watch the video when it is done downloading or after you've done your work.

It would be nice if Chad Vader from Blame Society Productions could automatically be sent to say Joost or MythTV automatically upon subscription to them.

chad vader from blame society productions

Though I must admit such thought really breaks the whole joost-paradigm. The beauty of joost is that as long as you've got internet connectivity, you can watch the tube. Expect joost or joost-like business to be the norm in a few years.

In medicine, Osirix is this open source project that lets docs and medical personnel share your medical image data. It lets them create their own PACS-server. A few years back this would be a difficult thing to do. But Siemens and their ilk are standardizing over DICOM to deliver those high quality images and across the network.

I started writing this post because of my search for the illusive (and admittedly, futile search for the) Holy Grail: consolidating my tech needs into one platform, one device to rule them all. What i ended up doing was googling the Internet for all those links about upstart future technology. One of the fringe benefits of living in this nascent Age of Information is that power is decentralized and democratized (i.e. handed over to people)--- to do-it-themselves, to collaborate, to form communities, to build exciting new technologies. May be the Holy Grail isn't one device to rule them all, it is about making sense of what is today and what is to come and that may be the zeitgeist for now.