Monthly Archives: May 2008

Why Microsoft’s future looks like the Wii remote whiteboard project

Robert Scoble wrote a blog post “This is why I love the tech industry…” late last night where you can almost feel the excitement he was still experiencing hours after his interview with Microsoft Researcher Andy Wilson.  Andy as Robert puts it “He’s the guy behind the “Surface” technology that you use your hands on. ”

For edtech folks that are familiar with the work of Johnny Chung Lee, Ph.D. Graduate Student @ Carnegie Mellon University and his Wii remote projects, they can relate to Robert’s fascination when they remember the amazement they felt the first time they learned about Surface Computing from Johnny Chung Lee’s work. 

If you are familiar with Johnny’s work in Surface Computing when you watch Robert’s interview videos you should quickly see the link between Andy’s and Johnny’s work. If you are not familiar with Johnny’s work or Surface Computing technology these videos will give you a great introduction to Surface Computing. 

The only fundamental difference in Johnny’s and Andy’s work in Surface Computing is funding.  Johnny is a grad student that creates inexpensive surface computing prototypes for early adopters in the open for free while Andy has a well paying gig working for a commercial company,  Microsoft helping them integrate surface technology into their future products.

Robert’s interview videos below give you the opportunity to peek at Microsoft’s Surface Computing work.

  1. Part I 28 minutes long – LaserTouch: AN Inexpensive Multi-touch sensing platform
  2. Part II 1 minute long – Finger or stylus?
  3. Part III 6 minutes long – Interacting with virtual objects on a display that can show depth

Keep in mind that the work shown in these videos is software research and not an end user product that will be available at Best Buy next year.

The good news for grad students like Johnny Chung Lee is that big technology companies like Microsoft and Apple are paying attention and understand that this type of interface is the furture input device of Operating Systems of the future.  

Side note: I wish someone like Andy or Johnny would explain the software algorithms behind Surface Computing.  This information has the potential to be a great discussion for a Math class.  If the discussion could be geared toward high school students it would show a real world example of why Math is so important for the future and how it fits into the real world.  It may even influence a few bright Math stars to go into the Surface Computing Technology field.


The future of Twitter and Microblogging in education is an open protocol

If something Twitter like is ever going to make it’s way into the world’s schools in any big way, the core architecture or protocol of microblogging which today we see as Twitter, needs to be made decentralized and into an open standard.  This process would allow Twitter to move from a consumer space to an enterprise solution.   


There are many high scale school social mapping based applications that potentially will only evolve if an enterprise class microblogging standardized architecture exists.  This would create high and reliable scalibility – the potential to scale beyond just one school … a whole district at the very least and the ability to scale higher – all in realtime –  applications such as: all call announcement system, all call emergency system and many others based around staff to staff, administration to staff, admin to parent, parent to staff, student to student, student to staff etc. communications systems.


Dave Winer wrote a post yesterday about decentralization microblogging that he says was driven by Scott Hanselman post, Why is Microblogging centralized?  If you have been following Dave’s blog of late you have been reading his posts about the problems with Twitter scaling and how they are related around the centralized design of the system.  Dave’s solutions to the problem always seem to be based around RSS at the core, technology that he has mastered and been the core developer of.


I left a comment at Dave’s post that has really nothing to do with what Dave is proposing which is backing up my Twitterstream as RSS on another server somewhere or allowing my Twitter client to poll RSS feeds when Twitter is down.  The comments I left is more in context with Scott’s original post and proposal to distribute Twitter into a generalized spec for microblogging. 


Don’t get me wrong, I respect Dave and all the work his has done in RSS and I understand what he states in is post is not a full solution.  I just wish he would start thinking and pointing people beyond his RSS forest.  Yes RSS or something XML will be woven into this solution on the backend as transport language but the solution at the core is bigger then RSS alone.   


What the social tech industry needs to do right now is get past it’s amazement of Twitter and any thoughts of bolting band-aids to the present scaling non-distributed mircoblogging architecture of Twitter and to start building something open and scaliable for the opportunities that are up ahead.  


Dave went for a walk and came back with this thought “If Twitter were to go down, then the desktop client would fall back to polling the feeds. It would probably be slower, but it would work.”


Sorry Dave I don’t want Twirl probing 100+ feeds when Twitter goes down.  This is not a solution or option for me and is the reason static RSS pages sitting behind RSS  never became the achitecture and won’t be the future realtime microblogging solution.  The fact is the Twitter architecture, with all it’s problems scales by orders of magnitude over static RSS files sitting behind http servers.  The answer up ahead is to move the microblogging load off of the Twitter sphere and off of the main Twitter servers and onto a decentralized “microblogging cloud” architecture that is deployed around the world and most importantly “owned by no one”.  That is the proposal and conversation you want to have with the young microblogging developer community.  


The present conversation really needs to go straight to the development of the Microblogging architecture.  Wasn’t that the answer with the web? ie. http, html, dns.  If the Web was designed around a Twitter like architecture we all would be serving our web pages and blogs served off Tim Berners-Lee’s server farm at CERN right now.


Someone or some group needs to start standardizing a microblogging protocol that would be supported by all present and future micro blogging clients/catchers/applications.  The investment into the future of microblogging by education is dependent on it.