A glimpse of the future

Great visit to an innovative research group at Bristol University.  The School of Interaction and Graphics has about twenty academics working on the products and devices of the future.  Engineers, computer scientists, physicists and even an archaeologist and anthropologist make up the team, drawn from Britain and abroad. Research done here in Bristol will soon be developed by local  new companies or be taken up by the likes of Microsoft and Nokia.  The latter also have their own product development section in Bristol, which I visited recently.  Bristol has a world wide reputation in graphics and digital design.

Among the projects I saw was Tom’s, who is developing “ultra-haptics”, which was the new word of the day for me, meaning relating to the sense of touch.  So I was able to feel a soft wind like sensation in the palm of my hand from sound waves emitted by small speakers.  The practical application is likely to be improving touch typing on screen devices that do not have conventional keyboards.  There could also be therapeutic uses.

We know that web based records or data stored on disk can be oh so easily lost or hard to retrieve.  So Peter has made a device to build a “tangible time line”.  It may appeal to genealogists like me, now that there is so much data stored on web sites that demand subscriptions for access.  Though I’ve been at my hobby for so long most of my research is on paper! See here for more http://chronotape.com/

Anna has made flexible screens.  Information can appear on a screen the size of a credit card but with the flexibility of thin rubber.  Perhaps phones and payment cards will combine into a barely noticeable (in terms of weight) device. Jarrod has been building a device that can record your surroundings, in a google steet view sort of way.

I heard about how devices can improve interaction between mental health practitioners and their patients or improve learning among children.  I was particularly taken with a globe shaped device that would allow more surface space for interaction than the lap top I am using at the moment.  Not sure whether I was so keen on a table like a giant i-pad that could improve lessons in school…or ruin a dinner party!

Thanks to everyone at http://big.cs.bris.ac.uk/ for a fascinating visit.  Sorry if my politician cum historian cum accountant descriptions of what I saw don’t come up to scratch for scientific observation.  But I was proud to see young people from around the world and from different academic disciplines collaborating to design and shape the future.