Friday, June 18, 2010

The controller-free world – Part II

Here’s a very different view-point on the topic that I was referring to earlier.

I am absolutely sure that we will certainly achieve the most efficient and perfect communication methodology between humans and machines (it’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when). But meanwhile, what about the communication challenges between humans themselves?

With machines we will have wonderful relationships, but when will we achieve the same with our fellow humans?

With phones we will have all kinds of touch facilities, but when will that most important “human touch” become a part of our basic mentality?

With all kinds of machines we will break every possible barrier in the way of our smooth communication, but when will we break our needless, artificial barriers of race, ethnicity, social stature, color, creed, and all the other bullshit that we have surrounded ourselves with?

In this world where everybody tends to become a “control-freak” (your boss, your spouse, your landlord, your neighbor, your political representative, your train co-passenger, and so on…), when will we actually achieve the “controller-free” nirvana?

The controller-free world – Part I

I believe the concept started with touch-screens. As a replacement of the traditional mouse kind of pointer. So in your smart-phones you could start using your fingers to achieve the same results as what was earlier achieved by moving various keys on the keypad to select the right application.

The same concept was carried forward, albeit in a different way, into the world of console games, with the Wii providing strap-on controllers to give a realistic feel to your tennis and boxing games on the console. There was something tied to your hands, but yes, it was different from the traditional game controllers with 10+ keys and your thumbs getting sore after delivering huge blows in Dead or Alive.

In the world of touch, there was more evolution, with the latest entrant being something called “multi-touch”. The first idea in that line was “Surface” which featured a Minority Report kind of interface, as users could literally play with all that they could see on the screen. You could simulate an entire blackjack game with those flicks of hands that you would usually see as a trademark of a dealer in Vegas.

And then the iPhone entered the world, and it completely did away with the concept of any pointing device on phones, giving full usability only via fingers, no stylus and no pointers.

They took the multi-touch concept further ahead straight into iPad which actually looks just like a bigger phone without the phone call facility, though of course you can see pictures and movies and books on an almost laptop-sized screen, and again, have no place for any kind of pointers or pointing-devices.

Meanwhile, back in the gaming world came another major leap as Kinect was announced, promising the gamers no strap-ons, no keys, and no need to exercise your thumb muscles as you pound away your opponents. Instead, you exercise the same muscles which you would otherwise do if you were in a real boxing match. The concept being that of “gestures”, almost analogous to the multi-touch concept, except that there is obviously no touch involved.

In between we of course had various other attempts at “non-intrusive” technologies such as voice dialing or voice commands, but till date they haven’t met with much success due to severe differences in accents and pronunciations across the world.

Though I believe that in that combination (voice + gestures) is where the future lies, in terms of dissolving any remaining differences between the human-machine interfaces. The rationale is very simple actually – If what we are trying is to simulate as near a human kind of experience then the obvious choice is voice+gestures, because that is exactly how humans interact with each other. We talk and we simultaneously move our hands and head etc. (the whole science of body language) as we try to “communicate” and it is this final code of communication that all the technological powers in this world are trying to crack.

Let’s wait, and watch the death of the controllers…

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

If we said No to Drugs…


A strange thought crossed my mind as my conversing with one of my friends this afternoon. We were talking about the necessity of surgery etc. in certain cases and it struck me that if a doctor can actually cure a patient by also suggesting alternative therapy such as exercise and meditation, then that doctor stands to lose a lot of revenue which he/she might have otherwise obtained had the patient been forced to undergo the complicated (and obviously expensive) surgery.

Now I obviously have nothing against doctors. They are doing a good job no doubt. But this trail of thought makes me wonder that all the things that they do with money (buying food, clothes, Merc S-class, second homes in Alibagh etc.) are actually a result of somebody being in pain or distress. What if there were no diseases at all? No injuries, no lifestyle symptoms, no cancer, no tumours, no infections, no allergies, nothing at all? The only reason why people would come to hospitals would probably be for child-birth and nothing else.

It is way too far-fetched, I agree. But for a moment, hypothetically of course, what if it would really happen one day?

What would be the economic impact of this utopian human condition?

- No medical colleges (and their obscene donations), no more struggles for those coveted degrees from Harvard Med and other Ivy League institutions, no research papers on obscure infections of obscure body parts, no symposiums and no seminars in huge hotel ballrooms.

- No Pharmaceutical companies, no Big Pharma and their autocratic misdeeds in the underdeveloped nations, no clash for marketing rights of generics, no patent laws, no million dollar legal fees, no billion dollar blockbusters, no billion dollar investments in NCEs, no clinical trials, no contract manufacturing, no medical representatives, no pharmaceutical supply chains, and the various software packages to manage them.

- No hospital chains, no major healthcare facilities, no pathology labs, no ultrasound, no MRI, no X-ray, no blood tests

- And of course, no Rx, no OTC, no syringes, and no drugs.


Unbelievable? The thought itself is so unlike anything you would have ever surmised. I guess saying no to drugs ain’t so easy after all…