A little musing, computers

Some bits, pieces, and suspicions all pulled into one little package. Well, little for me. Maybe I can stay under a few thousand words.

Let’s start with the most jaw-dropping, and at the same time least able to defend. I think Apple will quit doing computers within the next handful of years.

That is, computers as computers. I think they’ll keep running various successors to the iPad, both stronger and weaker, for some time. But laptops and desktops are, well, I would not be surprised to see the big fruit absent from that area.

Assuming I’m right I think they’re smart in the short run and I think they’ll regret it in the long run.

Here’s the smart: at this time desktop purchases are declining. And it appears laptops may be following them. So why stay in a dying market? No, stay with tablets and phones and such, that’s where everyone is headed. Or so it seems.

Here’s the long-term regret: it leaves Microsoft dominant in a field that’s got some potential resurgence. Now let’s face it, Windows already dominates. It is, whether people like it or not, The Standard for desktop and laptop computers. Absolutely so for enterprise (businesses) and primarily so for PC type games.

So where’s the potential resurgence? Call it AR – Augmented Reality. Google Glasses are a start, but I think there’s another thing coming. And for this I have to come from the other side.

I’ve written on here before of Dragon Naturally Speaking, and don’t have much else to say. It’s extremely good right out of the box, and with continued use it’s beginning to have fewer typos and mis-cues than my fingers at the keyboard and mouse. But it’s still a pain for some of the things for which I use keyboard and mouse. Enter something else I’ve mentioned a time or two.

Leap Motion, and to a lesser extent Kinect. Leap Motion is the one that impresses me more, but Kinect may turn out to be VHS to its Betamax. Both are good at detecting motion, and Kinect is already better than it was a year ago. Leap can detect fingers moving independently – say, ‘touch typing’ a virtual board, and Kinect is probably not more than a year or two from doing it as well.

Muse with me for a moment as I go sideways. Graphic tablets become magnificent with pressure-sensitive pens. They’re good anyway, but that’s when they become great. But the main thing about the tablet is detecting exactly where the pointer is located. So, what if your motion detector can do that? What if Leap Motion (which claims a resolution of 0.01 millimeter) or Kinect (claiming a fraction of an inch) can gain a boost in accuracy using a specially designed stylus? Suddenly any tabletop or wall is sufficient for this graphic manipulation. Add, if you wish, the bonus of pressure sensitive pens and suddenly you can write on paper so it feels like you’re writing on paper – and it’s drawing on your screen.

Now what if that’s the pointer for your screen?

fwiw you could probably use any pen or pencil for just pointing. Or even the tip of your finger (though as always the point just isn’t fine enough for small detail. maybe. Assuming you don’t zoom in.)

Thus far, of course, I’ve meandered before. But there’s always been one small problem: the display. The screen. And the google glass just doesn’t make it – not quite.

Allow me to point to a VR game device: Oculus Rift. It’s good. It solves a lot of the problems of VR. But it’s not the first to look good, so why am I dragging it in? First, and less significant, it’s naturally stereoscopic. It gives you ‘3d’ vision naturally, by presenting separate screens to each eye. Second, there are companies already working on binary cameras for it. Dual small cameras, each feeding to an independent screen, giving the wearer the ability to look past the box without taking it off. Finally, and most significant, is that unlike almost all its predecessors it’s suddenly got a major backer. It was purchased by Facebook.

I don’t like facebook for a number of reasons. But nobody can doubt its deep pockets nor its breadth of distribution. OR will be pretty much worthless to the company for social networking. As an AR (Augmented Reality) device that allows constant social networking, however, it’s very large. And that’s really just one use of it.

Let me give some scenarios.

Joe is a computer professional, someone who these days is chained to a desk with large powerful screen plus keyboard plus input devices (mouse and graphic). Shift slightly: give him LM and OR plus perhaps a stylus. Now he can work anywhere, so long as the OR can connect (wired right now, wireless in progress) to a desktop. Touching the screen (if that’s what he wants or needs to do) does not require reaching out. Just reaching to the virtual – or telling his system that the table at which he’s sitting is now the screen.

Mary is a mechanic. She can use her OR as a reading screen for the maintenance manual while looking at the machine to be repaired. And point to something with the line diagram activated and tell her system to order ‘this’.

The engineer looking at something with the CAD diagram of his intended enhancement as overlay – which he can tweak on the spot.

That’s augmented reality, and it’s coming in hundreds of different ways.

Yes, you can lift your tablet or smart phone or glance at the postage stamp on your google glass. Or you can ‘just look’ and ‘just point’.

Now, maybe, you can see why I think Microsoft was very smart in creating Windows 8. And if Apple is, indeed, exiting the computer field why I think they’re making a mistake.

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