Heart Of Glass

4 04 2011

I am a futurist. I honor the past. I embrace the present. But I live for tomorrow.

So when I saw “A Day Made Of Glass” on YouTube, I was fascinated. Visual representations of a better tomorrow are seeds in the fertile ground of our imagination. And those seeds need to be watered.

Of course, it must be disclosed that Glass is really a corporate communications piece from Corning, who…no surprises here…is big in the glass business. Really big. So take it with a grain of salt. A similar video could have been produced by a plastics company; the view of tomorrow would have been similar, albeit with a different medium.

My students may very well (I hope…) remember the embedded video in the first lecture of the semester…the one from 1967 depicting home computing and e-commerce (Year 1999, A.D.). While much of that clip is now laughable, the essence really did come true. I have a hunch that a lot of what Corning envisions will also come true, but maybe not with so much glass (he says as he checks their stock price).

The core of this dream sequence is that everything tomorrow will be thinner, lighter, more portable, more manipulable, and scalable. Oh, and did I say made of glass?

But we are actually well along this path. Think about how much tapping we do on our touchscreen phones and tablets, how much pinching and zooming. The touchscreen video wall in the College of Business is a good example of where this heading (although it is built on 4 LCD television screens). I have also seen a scrollable menu sign outside a Vegas restaurant.

The marketer in me is overflowing with ideas. With broadband as common as the air we breathe, everywhere we turn in tomorrow’s homes and cars, we will face web content. Imagine banner ads in the bathroom (Toothpaste anyone? Toilet paper?). Wardrobe assistants in the bedroom (need a new shirt to go with those pants? Click here…). Grocery services in the kitchen (“You’re running out of milk. Shall I order another gallon?”). And movie suggestions in the media room.

While Corning will probably play a somewhat less prominent role in this future than they envision (hey, what else would expect from a company?), it is highly likely our homes and cars will quickly begin to resemble the imagery shown here. Just like the 60s video more or less came true, so will this. Our homes are about to become a lot more interactive.

But what really struck me about this video was not the footage itself, but the naysaying comments beneath it. Judging by those remarks alone, there’s a group of people that simply does not want to live a life as Corning predicts it. While I suppose it is possible to opt-out of progress (anyone want to join the Neo-Luddites?), the fact remains that Corning’s future is a lot closer at hand than the Year 1999, A.D. video. The latter took three decades before it really bore fruit; this one is already getting ripe.

Which means we had all better used to an even more pervasive electronic lifestyle, one with voices beckoning us from every direction…with information, entertainment, and marketing.

Just be careful if most or all of it winds up being glass. I drop everything as it is. I really don’t want to wind up unable to walk around barefoot in my own home.

Dr “Half-Full…Or Is It Half-Empty?” Gerlich

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