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“It’s Tablet!”….”No, it’s a Coffee Table!”

Starbuck gets at hat tip for this cool mash-up of furniture with a giant next-generation tablet:

Get Ready for the Smart Coffee Table

Computers started out as discrete objects to be placed on top of furniture — a PC on the desk, a laptop on the dining room table. An iPad on the kitchen counter. But the destiny of computing devices is to be built into our furniture. The desk itself will become a PC. The dining room table will be usable like a laptop. And the kitchen counter will work a lot like an iPad.

In computer science, the concept of computers built into everything is called ubiquitous computing, pervasive computing, ambient intelligence or, my favorite label: everyware.

The transition to intelligent furniture will also involve a reconsideration of the hierarchy of furniture. For example, the tables throughout your house exist in a functional ranking system. Today the king of tables, of course, is the dining room table. You spend more money on it than other tables, such as bedroom nightstands, the coffee table, the patio table, the workbench in the garage, the desk in your home office and so on. Its quality, appearance and placement are far more important than that of lesser tables.

When the dust settles on the transition to intelligent furniture, however, it’s likely that the lowly coffee table will usurp the crown and become the most important (and expensive) table in your house. The reason is that the current location and purpose of a coffee table as a table are peripheral to what’s important about your family’s life. But the intelligent coffee table of the future may be the central computing device in your home.

This is sort of an evolutionary half-step toward the internet of things, as is Google’s Daemon –type glasses. The step beyond that is networking the internet of things with our own brains. Can our brains handle this additional order of magnitude of continuous information flow? Most likely, as we adapted from pastoral life to high-tech civilization without any major evolutionary changes but our culture will definitely evolve – perhaps more than with the advent of literacy or the printing press. Without a depth of connection to others we would be at risk of cultivating a culture of isolation and self-absorbtion (I was going to write “introspection” but, well…we know that is not going to happen). With too much connection there is not enough focus to recognize or develop insights.


3 Responses to ““It’s Tablet!”….”No, it’s a Coffee Table!””

  1. Chris Says:

    The coffee table computer concept has been around for a while, but it is interesting how suddenly it’s coming into its own because of the shift towards “ecosystem” style technology. I’ve played with a few iterations of the Microsoft table (although not this one) and really liked them. The idea of being able to tie it into all my existing technology though? Too damn cool for words. Although I think that Google Glass will have a more dramatic impact on day to day use of technology.

  2. Michael Says:

    I hate to play the Apple card so early in this discussion but watching this video leaves me totally cold. Where is the polish, the real need, the killer application for this? I can see ‘surfaces’ going this way at some point, the coffee table will usurping the dining table as the most important (or at least most expensive) table in the house but, really, “watch this space”, what does that even mean?

    Show me a table that’ll “feel” my phone as I absent-mindedly place it down on the table, charges it for me, updates my calendars with the info I’ve not yet synced and that reminds me that, now I’m home, I need to make up the spare room before my visitors arrive.

    I guess I’m saying I’m not excited by the hardware anymore, all of that is potential and possible, where is the real human need? That video just shows lots of people flinging photos around as if it’s 1999.


  3. Chris Says:

    Agreed Michael, this video doesnt really show a lot of what could be done. I think part of the issue is that producers of this type of technology are really struggling to find a way to express the “ecosystem” concept in a meaningful way, it’s all about phones, computers and tablets, not able the ways those technologies blend together into a whole.

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