It’s that time of year isn’t it. In Roman mythology, Janus the god of gates, doors, beginnings and endings is depicted with two faces. One retrospective, gazing back at the past, the other speculating on the future.
I’ve been busy this year. Its had me whizzing between four countries, as well as contemplating possibilities elsewhere in the world, and ponderring where in the world to base myself – which path to take?
Last January, I left Taiwan, where I’d lived for a year, having got heavily into AIR application development before the public release.
Next I landed a lecturing job in a prestigious Beijing university. But, I only stayed one semester because of institutionally encouraged cheating and plagiarism. It was a well-paid job, but my integrity can’t be bought.
I returned to Taiwan for a couple of months, failed to find a new job, so I embarked on the delivery of Flex, AIR and AS3, consultancy and training in South East Asia.
A couple of days ago, I got an email from my old boss at BT labs in England. He’s now the Head Of Research operations at BT. His elevated status also makes me look back over my past. How my career stagnated in Australia. Now, I’m just a lowly Flash Platform expert. I feel like an under-achiever.
Anyway, the email concerned my most high profile project twenty years ago. At the time I was a bright but impetuous recent graduate. I devised part of the GSM mobile phone standard – something that became implemented in every single GSM mobile handset. Now that project has come back to me. Apparently, the patent was sold to LG, and they want to talk to the originators – so I may be flying to Korea soon.
So let me now turn my face to the future. Because it’s much more interesting.
For a start, there’s a whole lot of new technologies on the brink of being released by Adobe. Gumbo, Catalyst (Thermo), Cocomo, Alchemy, Durango…
Since 2001, I’ve been interested in using the Flash platform to create products. Instead of writing custom applications for corporate clients – write a new generation of applications suited to the common corporate, or small online-business needs. Sell and distribute them over the internet. Maybe use a subscription rather than a license model.
When Macromedia Central introduced Flash on the desktop in 2003, together with a mechanism to try/buy applications – I thought the time had come at last. I’ve invested a great deal of thought and development into this prediction. But I’m still waiting.
Recently, I’ve been working on a project related to online community virtual worlds. I’ve lashed together some demonstrators using Flash, Flex, SmartFox Server, OpenSpace, and other 3D techniques. Over the next 18 months, I’ll be consulting in a project extrapolating from the ideas embodied in these demonstrators.
Initially, I wasn’t sold on the idea. It seemed like a gimmick. Like “Jaws 3D”, or something just for computer games. But it turns out that all the futurologists are seriously focussed on 3D immersive environments. It looks like the internet is evolving into a virtual world. There are about 100 million active users of virtual worlds today. Maybe this trend is what has influenced Adobe to enhance the 3D capabilities in Flash Player 10? (By the way, I assume FXG will support 3D geometry too? – anyone?)
This diagram comes from the futurologists at IBM. It shows the evolution of the internet, with “Mature Net” corresponding to what people tend to call Web 2.0. So according to this diagram, the next step Web 3.0 = WEB 3D.
Here is another diagram I really, really, like…
I’ve been involved in future technologies, research and development for a long time, and this curve represents a phenomenon that’s very familiar. It’s called the “Hype Cycle for emerging technologies”, and oddly enough it reminds me of one of those fair-ground games where you guide a loop around the twisted wire path, and sound a buzzer if you touch the path.
You see how each technology is destined to ascend a peak of inflated expectations before plunging into a trough of disillusionment. Provided it survives – the relationship between expectations and its true potential/capability is much more realistic, and the visibility of that technology ascents more steadily over time.
Public virtual world technologies have already passed over the hype hump. Perhaps this was back in the 1990’s when everyone went VR crazy. Now it’s expected to develop smoothly into the mainstream within 2 to 5 years.
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