Josh ClarkThe number one content platform is the smartphone. Next in line, based on existing sales and growth projections: the tablet. Bringing up the rear of digital platforms, and falling further behind every day, is the PC. At least, that's the belief of a variety of presenters at SWSWi. So where is your focus? My bet would be that most of the news industry is still focused on print and PC.

So what's the next big thing next year, or in a couple of years? Smart refrigerators? New apps and devices we've yet to imagine? Not necessarily, said Global Moxie's Josh Clark.

Take a shopping list app — there's a few to choose from. Instead of just a digital list in your pocket, how about if the app knew what grocery store you were walking into and automatically reordered your list to match the store layout, so if you start in produce to the left of the entrance, lettuce and green peppers lead off your list? Not a NEW app, but a BETTER app.

IntoNowIt's not unusual to Google or Bing the name of a TV show, then search for the season and episode to find out more about what you're watching. Yahoo's IntoNow listens to what you're watching, as Shazam does for music, and quickly identifies the show, episode and links to provide you the information you're looking for.

We've all seen or used translation apps. Word Lens uses your smartphone or tablet camera to capture and translate signs — helpful when traveling in unfamiliar countries.

Table DrumTable Drum produces a virtual drum pad, but it also learns from your motions — think Dragon Voice recognition learning, but it learns from motion, not from speech. It's natural motion technology. Microsoft's Kinect is combining speech and gesture. Clark said these mashups equal magic.

Innovation doesn't always need NEW devices or stuff ("That just means we have yet another thing to learn"), he said. "Make stuff better, incrementally easier, more useful, more intuitive." Use tablets to play games on TV; the tablet is the controller, the TV displays the game.

Table DrumClark suggests the future may not be, or may not need, smart refrigerators, microwaves, etc. "I consider the microwave as a big clock. If it were smart, it'd reset to the proper time after the power goes out." There's nothing wrong with dumb devices; they do a great job at what they were designed to do. The future may be about your mobile device controlling multiple "dumb" devices — the fridge, thermostat, security cameras, even cars.

The future will use mobile devices to control more aspects of our lives, but they won’t necessarily be an all-in-one tool. Mobile devices will control multiple devices. Beyond that, we'll have shared control. There will be a system in your car that controls everything — voice, music, heating and cooling, ambient light, security, seats, your garage door opener and even the heat and lights as you approach or leave your home.

When you get out of the car, you pick up your smartphone and it is now the controller of all those things, a seamless transfer of control. Once in the house, you pick up your tablet and it becomes the controller. Coming next will be shared control. Clark showed a Scrabble set of letters on an iPhone to the left, another set to the right. In the middle was an iPad with the live Scrabble board, all networked and "the world's most expensive board game."

Caveat: we're conditioned to upgrade or get new smartphones every year or two, upgrade our tablets and computers every few years, maybe even replace our TV's every four to five years. Are we prepared to buy a $4,000 refrigerator every few years to get the newest "stuff?” Or a $30,000 car every couple of years, to keep up with the latest technology?

Clark said new technologies take about 20 years to reach the consumer. If you see a new technology today, it probably originated in a lab somewhere in the 1990s. If you "discover" a new technology that you can use in five years, it probably had it's genesis in the late '90s.

Watch for future innovation to focus on behavior, not on content. Think Kinect, again. You'll make a motion as if you're grabbing an image from your TV, then release it to your tablet or phone — transference, sharing, without hitting capture, copy or send. Rather than pairing, syncing or mirroring, devices will sense each other using what Clark called reflexive intelligence and respond accordingly with no human intervention. You won't need Google glasses to tell you the name of the person approaching, the person you know that you know but whose name you can’t remember. Your smartphone will sense the smartphone in the purse approaching you. You'll feel the vibration, pull it out and it will display the picture, name and company of the person approaching.

Other takeaways from Clark's presentation:

  • Design skills will increase in importance (mentioned by many speakers and presentations at SXSW — design was perhaps the "it" or hot topic this year).
  • API is the app. It's about content + service, not platform, display.
  • Think services, not containers. Design a service, not a device.
  • If we can describe the data, robots can build it.

As society adapts to these technologies and behaviors, media companies need to think about how they will fit in to that changing world, and start planning now how to reinvent themselves, their culture and the services and value propositions they can deliver.

Many of us think about tomorrow, next week, next quarter, maybe next year. It's useful to sometimes pull back and listen and learn from smart people who see the world five, 10 and 20 years from now. We may not always want to be playing catch up.


Alex ZopfAlec Zopf, software engineer for Next Big Sound, echoes Clark's vision of motion control. Zopf is using his background in music to move beyond speech controls to intuitive or motion controls — motion composition. This has roots in Yamaha's 1990's experiments with wearable digital jumpsuits whereby the wearer would create music based on his or her body movements. It's not a big leap to go from creating and controlling sound and music to creating and controlling other aspects of our lives.

For a look at the emerging technology, check out Myo.

Brian Steffens  
Director of Communications


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