Microsoft 2019…new yet old.

Making its rounds through the interwebs lately is a concept video produced by Microsoft Office Labs portraying a slickly digitally amplified life in 2019 (presumably thanks to MS technologies), which was shown at the Wharton Business Technology Conference, by Stephen Elop (formerly of Macromedia, then Adobe, now head of MS Business Division).

It features the now-common motif of multi-touch interfaces, gestural interaction, transparent wafer-thin screens, instant collaboration across space/time, animation/transition/cinematic motion galore, and no files but lots of colorfully animated information everywhere with instant access. (stifled yawn)

Yes, it’s a slick production piece, no doubt, but as this author at Fast Company commented, it all feels a bit…old and not really innovative or visionary. (I mean, it’s nicely connected together into a slick pastiche :-) Hmm. Why is this? As the writers of Battlestar Galactica recently reminded us, “this has all happened before and this will all happen again.”

** Vodafone prepared a slick, award-winning Flash site portraying various future scenarios featuring…touch-screens, gestural interfaces, transparent wafter-thing glass screens, etc :-) Unfortunately it’s been taken down but used to be here: http://www.vodafone.com/flash/futures/
A commentary is posted here by Christian Science Monitor.

** NTT Docomo has a 2010 vision video here, reinforced by a few heavy-sounding acronyms describing the original intent.

** IDEO in 1999 did a series of slick fashionable hi-tech future concepts profiled in BusinessWeek, entitled Connected Products 2010.

** Way back in 1993 AT&T ran a series of ads based around a digitally enhanced lifestyle entitled “You Will” which was quite compelling for its time (before smartphones, e-commerce, websites, etc.) featuring touch-screen interactions, but interestingly no cellphones or flatscreens. Here’s a very blotchy montage of those ads on YouTube.

** Minority Report massively made popular the orchestral and cinematic glamour of gestural interaction, along with other technologies for truly “targeted advertising” in shopping malls, re-designed transit systems, and, ahem, pre-crime deterrence :-)

** Other recent future-tech movies that have helped shape our general expectations for what’s emerging in “our future digital life”: Iron Man, Children of Men, Gattaca, Quantum of Solace, Bourne series (spy-tech/surveillance madness), AI…and of course going back to Bladerunner, THX 1138, 2001, Alien, Terminator, etc. (and of course various Anime flix like Ghost in the Shell (this blog’s namesake ;-)

I think as a culture we’re just becoming so used to the notion that there will be all these fanciful technologies amplifying our lifestyles across home, office, car, hospital, school, etc. Corporations, movies, tv shows, magazines have been continually filling our heads with these visions for the last 20 years or more. So it feels there’s really nothing new under the blazing sun anymore…like say, Vannevar Bush’s Memex, or Englebart & XEROX Parc’s mouse/keyboard/GUI combo when it was first introduced, or Ted Nelson’s hypertext and related concepts. Or William Gibson with his majestic, poetic description of cyberspace as a “consensual hallucination”. Or of course, the real grand-daddy of them all, Apple’s Knowledge Navigator video simply blew away audiences back then.

They were all truly ahead of their time, suggesting a new paradigm previously un-anticipated (for the most part). So these days, amid the pop cultural hype and deluge (from Engadget to Apple’s announcements to latest Hollywood film, etc.), is everything just old hat now? Can we be surprised anymore? Can there ever be a truly revolutionary concept video that dares to radically shift our conception of living in a fundamental way? Hmmmm…

Add comment

Recent posts

Older Posts

Let’s go meta