A number of recent or ongoing developments give an indication of what technologies we might be using in the future to create, use, and exploit our digital objects. They are described below. The various dates quoted are taken from the internet’s Wikipedia.
GPS position data in photo tags: It has now become a standard camera feature to include location data in the metadata tag of every photo taken, by using GPS position data. The tags also include full details about the camera, the settings used, and of course the date. All this data is acquired automatically and placed in metadata tags which are mostly hidden unless specifically looked at.
Impact on OFC projects: Systems will increasingly use all available information and data sources to build up a set of knowledge about each digital object. These other sources may include calendar systems, emails, texts, social media and the internet.
Music recognition: Shazam and other internet services identify music, movies, advertising, and television shows, based on a short sample played through the microphone on the device being used to run the relevant application. Shazam first started operating in 2002 and this kind of functionality is now well known and widely used. iPhone 8 users can ask Siri, its virtual agent, to identify what music is playing and it will provide the answer after interacting with Shazam in the background.
Impact on OFC projects: See Image Recognition below
Face recognition: Google’s Picasa programme was one of the first photo management applications to offer a face recognition capability in 2008. Since then, the function has become a commonplace feature provided in a host of applications and mobile phone apps. Not only can you search for a face within a set of photos, but also across the whole internet.
Impact on OFC projects: See Image Recognition below
Image recognition: Google’s image search capability was amazing when it first came out in 2001; but was even more astounding when a reverse image search function was added in 2011 which searched for images similar to one uploaded or specified. Nowadays, it is a heavily used function which most Google users are familiar with.
Impact on OFC projects: The ability of computers to recognise music, faces, objects – anything – will become increasingly sophisticated and accurate. It will develop from just being able to find similar things, to understanding what particular things are in the same way that we can recognise a piece of music as being classical, or a face being European, or a particular animal being a cat. Future software that manages digital objects will also have an understanding of what those objects are.
RFID: The cheaper RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) systems for tracking objects can be purchased for less than £400 and they will continue to drop in price. The cost of the tags that are attached to the objects you want to monitor are a few pence each.
Impact on OFC projects: See Smart Home Devices below
Smart home devices: There is a growing market for systems to control a wide variety of home devices including heating, lighting, sound systems and security. This is currently the most prominent aspect of a general idea referred to as the Internet of Things (IoT) in which communicating chips are built into products to assist their manufacture, use and maintenance.
Impact on OFC projects: Many of the physical possessions we obtain in the future will include a chip which contains information about the object and which can communicate with parent apps. We will become familiar with controlling objects in this way and with using the parent apps. We will attach our own RFID tags to our important possessions that are not already chipped, so that we can keep track of them within the same control systems.
Facebook’s ‘on this day’ function: Facebook provides its users with the option of being regularly presented with historical posts from the same date some years ago. These remind people of what they were thinking and doing, and who they were interacting with, in the past; and reawakens their memory of those events.
Impact on OFC projects: This sort of feature will be incorporated in many systems that accumulate user’s digital objects. Users who like it will come to regard it as a primary source of prompts for their memories. As the collections of objects grow over time, they will become increasingly valuable to individuals. Users will also become accustomed to not having to put any effort into saving material because the systems will do that for them.
The culture of sharing and being public: Today, a great many people want to upload, share objects, and get likes. There is less interest in private reflections, diaries and private photo collections.
Impact on OFC projects: People will increasingly want to share the broad range of digital objects (i.e more than just photos) in their collections with others. Systems will continue to be developed to enable them to do so. Perhaps families will possess their own virtual spaces to curate their own history.
The emergence of Virtual Reality: Virtual Reality (VR) has been under development for over 30 years but has still not become mainstream technology. However, several of the major technology companies including Samsung and Facebook, have products; and some use is being made of it in computer gaming. The industry is searching for a killer application – something like 360 degree videos, for example, or augmented reality in which virtual objects are superimposed on a picture of the real world. In the meantime, however, there is a continuing belief that the technology will eventually be widespread.
Impact on OFC projects: VR could eventually provide a controlled access exhibition space in which to manage and display all your digital objects.
Voice interaction: Voice recognition products emerged in the 1980s and have been getting better and better ever since. However, in recent years, three different personal assistant-type technologies which use voice as their primary interface with the user, have become widespread: Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, and, more recently, Amazon’s Alexa; and it is these three that are familiarising the majority of ordinary users with the idea of using voice as a primary interface to their mobile phones and their computers. Alexa is being used initially as an interface to Amazon’s Echo device which accesses Amazon’s huge music library and the internet. The ability to stand in one’s kitchen and suddenly desire to hear a particular piece of music and to say, for example, ‘Alexa, play the album No Secrets by Carly Simon’ and to have it start playing 5 seconds later, is amazing, and is indicative of how easy it will be in the future to pull up any of our digital objects including photos and mementos.
Impact on OFC projects: The capabilities of the voice interface will continue to improve until it becomes as reliable as normal conversation. A considerable amount of computer interaction currently performed using keyboards will migrate to voice. Users will become used to the idea of asking the computer for information and answers, and having the computer respond with what they want.