While the digitally-empowered of today may find the concept of searching for information in a library full of dead trees rather quaint how will future generations see the way in we navigate the sea of hypertextually linked information today and what will they be doing differently?

Envisioning or conceptualising the future has always fascinated me. Some lucky people get to do this as a job and futurologists at Adaptive Path have recently produced some interesting videos (as part of the Mozilla Labs concept browser series) showcasing a possible future user experience on the web –

Aurora (Part 1), Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

There are some extremely cool ideas going on here with four major themes; contextual awareness (understanding and finding patterns in data), natural interaction (bringing the digital experience closer to a real one), continuity (a single interaction model between multiple devices and input methods) and multi-user applications (enabling collaboration).

Mashing-up and sharing data using an innovative interface lies at the heart of the demo and I liked the way that it allows you to organise people, things and places in 3D space. Whist it clearly needs further research and refinement I could see being extremely useful considering the mountains of information most of us sit on and produce daily.

The problem with concepts is that they rarely become reality. Steve Jobs hit the nail on the head when he talked about the development of concept cars

“You know how you see a show car, and it’s really cool, and then four years later you see the production car, and it sucks? And you go, What happened? They had it! They had it in the palm of their hands! They grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory! What happened was, the designers came up with this really great idea. Then they take it to the engineers, and the engineers go, ‘Nah, we can’t do that. That’s impossible.’ And so it gets a lot worse. Then they take it to the manufacturing people, and they go, ‘We can’t build that!’ And it gets a lot worse.”

Simply put, turning concepts into reality without loosing the integrity of the original vision is very hard. This applies across many areas in life but there’s nothing more exciting than when it actually works out.

One concept slowly being turned into a reality is that of the semantic web (which I’ve written about before here and here). The video below is not a concept; it’s an evolving reality and, dare I say it, rather an amazing one! –

Although it might not be ready for the prime time yet I can see huge potential in projects like Freebase Parallax for a radical shift in the way in which people navigate information way beyond the traditional boundaries of static pages hard-linked together. This is the first step towards the future of unlocking information in data and knowledge in information.

If you know of any other interesting projects I’d love to hear from you!

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