The Sixth Sense: Living with data

Posted by Ian on May 6, 2009 in blog | No Comments
Kraftwerk foretold of a world of pervasive computing and data-driven lifestyle. Their 1981 release Computerworld featured ominous (yet enjoyable) tracks titled ‘It’s more fun to compute’ and ‘Computer Love’. Although they claimed to be the operators with their pocket calculators, the recent debut of Sixth Sense by Pattie Maes and Pranav Mistry at TED has rendered Krafwerk’s ‘Pocket Calculator’ obsolete.

Sixth Sense is an ingenuous user interface developed using only off-the-shelf tech that creates a data-enriched mediated environment between the user and the objects with which she interacts. Evoking something of the tech-vision of Minority Report (see below), Sixth Sense creates an immersive, two-way media interface that transforms objects and surfaces in the world into dynamic TUIs (tacticle user interfaces). Books become the screens upon which information and reviews can be projected about the book, and as the pages are turned, the new data relating to the book is explored.
Another striking element of Sixth Sense is its use of commonly used human gestures to activate applications and data collection. For example, a frame made using your tumbs and index fingers (framing a landscape) is interpreted by the interface as the intention to take a photograph.
Although utilising human gestural communication and object-interaction to create a dynamic and data-enriched environment is not quite the actual sixth sense (or extra-sensory perception), Mistry’s and Maes’ invention certainly is data-enhanced sensation and perception, and it is an exciting step towards the dawning of tactile user interfaces.

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