Foreword by Charlie Fink
Our relationship to content and the real world itself is changing. As we enter this next phase of ubiquitous, invisible, and wearable computing, what was flat, now has dimensions. What was dead, is now alive, energized by AI and Spatial Computing. Mike Pell explains in the following pages how data, text, pictures, graphics, and anything else really, can be enabled to reveal deeper meaning, hidden relationships, and even tell its own story. In this book, Pell shares his compelling vision for the future of information and our most vital and humble communications tool — text.
Readers of Pell’s first book, Envisioning Holograms, were given a unique look at the design thinking and approach taken when creating content for the then newly invented Microsoft HoloLens. As one of the creators of Adobe Acrobat, Pell has some experience with disruption, which makes him the right person to shed some light on what’s coming next for us in the area of information design, consumption, and authoring.
Understanding the context of what’s happening all around us now is key to comprehending the importance of this book. Most industry experts like myself subscribe to a few commonly held ideas. The first, and most important, is that Augmented Reality is the operating system for the real world. The world now has another layer or dimension, mediated by the camera, which is constantly digitizing and potentially altering all we see in real time. Writing in Wired, Kevin Kelly calls this the “Mirrorworld,” the digital twin of our world, invisible to the naked eye. I call it a world painted with data. Magic Leap calls it “the Magicverse”, and AWE founder and VC investor Ori Inbar calls it “Wikipedia for the real world,” and so on. Lots of names, one idea. There’s a vast invisible world that we are just now starting to surface.
Into this scenario comes Pell, fresh from his pioneering design work on Envisioning Holograms. His frequent lectures begin with the observation that we spend much of our time reading ordinary text on our computers and mobile devices, yet that textual aspect of communication hasn’t changed at all in decades despite our daily technical advancements. He then asks his favorite question — how will text change in a more dimensional world? (like the ones we just talked about above). Would everything still really be a page?
Pell’s belief is that the old way of reading 2D pages will be supplanted by a multi-dimensional experience. He predicts the page will soon become a “tired affordance” of the old world: lifeless, isolated, and dead as a tombstone. It’s time for text to come alive and propel us toward what he calls “The Age of Smart Information.”
This book predicts that in the near future, the data we regularly consume will feel like it’s alive and aware, powered by a type of Artificial Intelligence that understands our routines, location, time of day, schedule, and even our emotions, to automatically filter how it is presented to us. New devices, together with precise geolocation and latency-free cloud computing, will be able to place information exactly where and when we need it, without us having to take any explicit action to make it happen. Pell believes this unique, personalized combination of Spatial Computing and Artificial Intelligence will enable our most common forms of communication to come to life right before our eyes.
“The beauty we seek is not found in first impressions, but rather in how the truth reveals itself,” is Pell’s poetic description of what the exploration of Smart Information allows. In this new world of Spatial Computing, containers of information will know how and when to reveal their hidden gems.
But, even when powered by a sophisticated AI, only humans can ascribe meaning and recognize value from any new delivery format. I experienced that effect myself during a mind-blowing demo at Augmented World Expo last year, where I found myself walking through Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” using Flow Immersive in Virtual Reality. It was presented as a room-scale 3D forest of slowly animating words and the narrative’s phrases, which gave me a new perspective on a classic work.
Through our frequent conversations over the last year, Pell has also opened my eyes to consider everyday actions I take for granted more closely, like talking, reading, and even my writing. Perhaps my words have deeper meaning of which I am not consciously aware. Or perhaps there’s a better way for me to tell you all of this beside the written word. According to Pell, there is, and this inspiring book describes those possibilities.
Los Angeles, California November 2018
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Originally published at theageofsmartinformation.com on February 23, 2019.