editor's notebook The future just keeps getting closer and closer these days. Not only do we have iPhones with FaceTime--which, when combined with the iPod Nano (as I'm sure they will be before too long) will come pretty close to creating a mass-market version of Dick Tracy's two-way wrist TV--we've also got robot cars and, ahem, robot journalists (which I'm trying to keep at bay by way of this terribly sophisticated and never-ending sentence--apparently the roboscribes have trouble with such Proustian gymnastics: Quick! They're coming for our jobs! Hand me another semicolon and an em dash!).
And too, we've got "Minority Report"-like gesture-driven interfaces and now this: a multiuser touch screen the size of a desk, which curves up to create a, well, desktop like the metaphorical one you may be staring at right now.
I realize some of you will scoff at this device--whipped up by The Media Computing Group at Germany's RWTH Aachen University, and brought to my attention by Engadget--but I freely admit that it fires my imagination.
I can see it combined with the type of Wacom pen-and-tablet device that lets you "draw" directly on screen. As a sometime graphic designer, I'd be in nirvana. I could hunch over in a hard-working, tortured artist kind of way and draw a picture or manipulate a Photoshop file, save a version of it, and then whisk that version across the (horizontal) desktop to see it curve up onto the (vertical) desktop that would now be a perfect bulletin board.
I can see it incorporating the aforementioned gesture-driven technology to allow me to sit back and point at the drawings on my bulletin board to choose the ones I like: I could snap my fingers, say, and preserve those files; then--I don't know--dismiss the rejects with a disdainful backhanded wave and watch them burst into unbelievably lifelike flames courtesy of a supercharged graphics card or an up-and-coming 3D Web technology like WebGL. A client meeting was never so much fun! It's a multiuser device: I could set the client's favorite drawings ablaze, and she could ignite mine! We could create a new video game! I'd let her win! I'd have to! She's now my only source of income--my journalism job having been stolen by R2-D2!
But enough of my overheated holiday-weekend imaginings, irrelevant asides about robots, and tiresome, tiresome, tiresome--tiresome--syntactical pyrotechnics. Why don't you take a look at the video and share with us your own brilliant vaporware in the comments section below?
(And, yes, I know, we've already had at least one real-life interpretation of the Dick Tracy gadget--and for a long time now. See? I told you the future just keeps getting closer. So close it's become the past. Feel free to point out if and where the technology mashup I've conjured already exists--and when it appeared.)