A short time ago, a young person wrote to me that the progress we have made in IT is nowhere near as spectacular as everybody keeps insisting. It is all perfectly normal. That really gave me pause.
Five years ago, solutions which are used as a matter of course today, were still absolutely utopian. Much of what looks and works so easily has an unbelievable functional background. Here are some examples:
Let us assume I am somewhere in this world in a country the local language of which I do not speak. I want something and meet a person with whom I cannot talk in any language we are both familiar with. A new app makes it possible for me to ask a question in my language from the i-phone. A short time later, the i-.phone will ask the same question of the person I addressed in his own language. Said person replies in his own language and a short time later I can read and listen to the translation in my language.
A new app which allegedly works quite well can do it. A short time ago, this sort of thing was only imaginable in a bad science fiction soap…
My i-phone has an app with which I can find the next public transport station at any place of my liking all over Germany. The way I have to take will be shown to me in an image of my vicinity on the display. It is a combination of “virtual reality” and “real reality”, you call it “merged reality”.
And quasi as a by-product, my i-phone also tells me how many minutes it is to the next station and how much time there is left for me, because of a delayed train. It is all online, and it will all soon be even more sophisticated, including payment. No more tickets, no more complicated tariff rules and time tables.
Well, that is also a little science fiction, isn’t it?
Linking paper and the internet
It all started with digital newspapers. Some articles had a 2-D bar code attached to them. All you had to do is “scan” it and then read the additional article on the internet. Mind you, when they said “scan” what they meant was not “scan”. Instead, you had some pattern recognision on the bar code picture.
Today, you find more and more bar codes on “paper”: the real estate extends its information in the same way through the 2D bar code as the advertisement for your dream vacation.
Or why don’t you print a 2-D bar code onto the rear of your visiting card? The user can immediately look at your website or Facebook entry by using his smartphone. Or he can read your blog or download your e-book.
How is all this possible?
It is quite easy. All you have to have is a modern cell-phone: an iphone. Android or a smartphone with Windows Phone 7 – it combines all you can possibly want: it can generate (loudspeaker) and record voice (microphone). It can film or process moving images and then replay them on its screen. It can analyse images and recognize patterns. Consequently, one of the things you can use it for is deciphering bar codes.
It can locate anything (GPS) and tell you the point of the compass. And it has an often extremely fast connection to the most powerful server farms and databases of the world. It automatically logs into WLANs or global networks.
And it is an unimaginably powerful supercomputer itself, having an enormous storage capacity. Even ten years ago, every small cell phone had a higher computing capacity than all the NASA computers together when they first made flying to the moon possible. And since then, everything again developed at exponential speed.
Thus, the gigantic computer “smart phone” with its own powerful software and supported by servers all over the world can do the most spectacular things.
I have no i-phone. Instead, I have an Android. Of course, there, too, you get all those beautiful programs. I do not yet use them, because I do not feel like familiarizing myself with them. After all, it would mean still more administration, upgrades,… My (young) friends cannot understand this. They say it is all very easy.
It is probably just a question of time, and then I, too, will really catch the spirit and go ahead. The time will certainly have come when the smart phones will fit into my first beautiful purse made of brown leather. I was so proud of it when I was eighteen. By that time, you will no longer need a laptop.
Using such a device, you will also be able to use Facebook a lot more comfortably in the underground train. But the intelligent linking and communication of so many people world-wide has become something self-evident. After all, it has been there for eternities: exactly five years.
(Translated by EG)