Here Comes the Future

The first practical glimmerings of the real information age that lies ahead. MIT's SixthSense project starts to tie virtual content to the real world.

It's nice to see that I wasn't completely off-base a couple of years ago when I authored Edmonton's vision for municipal wireless internet.




If you believe artist and inventor Paul St George then his "Telectroscope" connects New York and London via a (very) long tunnel running through the earth's crust, with the images bouncing back and forth using mirrors. The other explanation is that it is all done by optical fibres - take your pick. One end of the "tunnel" emerges next to Tower Bridge on the banks of the Thames in London - the other is next to Brooklyn Bridge on the banks of New York's East River.

It looks like something HG Wells might have imagined. Each end has a giant telescope-like construction which appears to punch its way out of the earth. There are dials, and levers, and thermometer gauges on the side of the 20m long brass and wood construction. Peer into it and you can see people on the other side of the Atlantic. Wave at them, they wave back at you.

is brilliant. And it is significantly more captivating than you might expect, given a world full of teleconferencing, television, webcams, and skype. Why?

I suspect the appeal has to do with a few things. First, it's public. Unlike most of the other ways that we would connect remotely with someone across the Atlantic, you have no idea who or what you will see on the other end. Second, the artist has done a quality job of keeping the piece "in character". The image is high quality and real time, so you don't feel on a gut level like this is just another gadget. And yet while the image is so good, there's no audio at all, which not only is consistent with the premise of a tunnel, but it avoids all sorts of problems with the quality of the experience. A satisfying reproduction of street life is much more easily accomplished visually than aurally. In the end, the whole experience comes off as being intuitively within the realm of mechanistic physics, no electronic middleman required.

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Flickr Account Reactivates


... not that it ever disappeared, but I hadn't been updating. Now there are brand spanking new photos from my trip to Echo Bay, with more to come.