The Physicality of Information

Today's Boston Globe reports on some work at MIT's Media Lab.  One of the projects is Proverbial Wallets -- which creates a wallet that vibrates when there are transactions on your credit card; it becomes harder to open when you are at or over your budget for the month, and the size of the wallet increases or decreases based on your assets.  I love this project because it is one of a handful of efforts that is trying to link the physical world to the information world.  I wrote recently about this idea in a post at Harvard Business Review that talks about the importance of barcodes and smart phones in linking the information world to the physical world.  Likewise, the proverbial wallet takes information and makes it physical.

I believe part of the great success of the iPhone, iPad, Android phones and others has to do with the fact that we can touch them -- and we miss touching our information.  Having information in digital form adds convenience, but it loses so many dimensions of meaning -- whether it is the dog-eared book, or the crisply folded $100 bill.  Information in a physical form has lots of texture, which is lost in cyberspace.

I look forward to the day that there are more devices that can help to create a fully tactical interaction with information.  I have heard that some trading software gives crowd noises to different markets around the world so traders can bring their ears back into the perceptive action.  I think that new interfaces like the iPad's Star Walk which allows the user to hold up the iPad as a "window" onto the star map.  As you hold up your iPad to the southern sky, you see the stars that are "there" whether it is night or not.  This video gives you and idea of how it works.

The more tactile we make our interfaces, the more it will help to augment our daily lives.

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