Situational Awareness

I’ve long been fascinated by the prospect of wearable computing devices. Having ubiquitous access to information — movie times, news stories, restaurant reviews, product information, word definitions, novels, friends’ locations — seems like such a compelling idea that any talk of such things rivets me. As cellular phones have become more powerful and capable, they’ve become the de facto way for lots of people to access that information. I’m not much of a cell phone fan, but do feel like a comparative dullard when I don’t have an iPod Touch in my pocket.

Thus, MIT’s “Sixth Sense” system seems to me the most drool-worthy bit of technology I’ve seen in a long time. By combining a camera, a cell phone, and a small projector, they’re creating a smart system that watches what’s going on around you and spontaneously provides contextual information. Hold up a plane ticket, and it projects the flight’s status right on the ticket. Walk up to someone, and it recognizes the person’s face and provides name cues and information on that person’s interests. Hold up your fingers in the shape of a frame and it snaps a photo. It’s fascinating stuff, and is nicely demonstrated in this presentation from the 2009 TED conference, which makes me want to move to Boston and apply for admission at MIT.