Thursday, February 15, 2007

Modern times

Yesterday I went to the Publishing Expo at Olympia, after a four hour journey to London Paddington via Reading. Paddington is lovely, shame about the rest of West London. The curious thing about the exhibition, but entirely expected if you think about it, was having a barcode on your entry badge scanned all time by people at the stalls and as you went to the lectures. Now as they have my work contact details and will probably want to write to me about services I can choose to use or not, I didn't much mind.I would probably find this more bothersome if I had paid to go in.

Apart from the books of fonts (as Chloe said: mmmmm), there was one thing that really impressed me. A tool to turn our whole world interactive.

There are links displayed all over the place nowadays. But the trouble with links is that you have to remember to go and look them up when you get onto your computer. And there's so much else to do online – once you've checked your email and updated your Facebook status you're in a whole different realm and what ou saw on the side of a bus has disappeared from your mind completely.

So there I was, a-wandering round the show, thieving as many pens as I could. 'Do you want to see our stenographics', he says [actually I have a feeling this might be a longer, more dinosaur-like word]. 'OK…' says she, one eye already on the bowl of sweets at the next stand. We peer at an ordinary looking page with pictures of clothes on.

And then, he whips out his mobile phone, takes a picture of a rather nice dress and before you know it, the phone is connecting to a website with more pictures and information on how to order the dress. Ooh! If you look very closely, you can see how it works. In the background of the
image, a faded yellow jumble of symbols acts rather like a barcode – but it's much
less ugly and indeed you barely notice it. Suddenly, with that, life is breathed back into the dead medium of paper. Your newspaper could become a truly interactive experience. You would be able to point and shoot at adverts on the bus or paintings in an exhibition and find out everything about it. That instinctive tactile feel we have for the web, where we click away wherever the whim takes us, will apply to the real world. Soon, I ponder, they'll be imbedding this stuff on plants so we can instantly tell if it's a daffodil or a pansy. After all, our memories, like hard drives, need to keep space free, so who wants to remember whether that's a chaffinch or a goldfinch and how far each migrates, when all this stuff can be accessed at the press of a button?

It's bloody amazing, that's what it is. And it's in Japan already, so expect it here in, well, probably less than ten years… Google it on the Fujitsu site to get a much more technical description.

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