AT&T sees iPhone/voice controlled world

Mazin Gilbert of AT&T shows off research project

That’s Mazin Gilbert of AT&T showing off a research project to John Biggs, who runs CrunchGear, one of the best blogs that cover consumer electronics. You’ll notice the research project is running on Gilbert’s iPhone.

ComputerWorld wrote up the event
and you’ll see that iPhones played a key role in a lot what was demonstrated.

There CTO John Donovan showed me around, and in between a cool lab project that uses Second Life I kept noticing a trend. I visited the living room of the future (that’s what I called it) and they showed me a remote control that I could talk to “turn on CNN” and it did. But then they said “and you can do the same thing with your iPhone.”

Next to that was a cool search engine. “You can use your iPhone to find pizza.” And it worked. I want that!

Across the room was an online shopping service. Yes, you guessed it, you could use your iPhone to look up lots of things about the products you were thinking of buying.

Now, I’m being a bit over the top. It wasn’t all about the iPhone. Lots of stuff about videoconferencing and telehealth technologies too.

But I kept coming back to the iPhone-based world. It’s one that resonates with me.

Now, I think it’d be pretty weird for most people to talk to their iPhone to switch channels on their TV, but I could see a world where I could get rid of all my remote controls and that I could completely control via voice.

“Switch to ESPN.”

The demos they showed me worked pretty well. The living room scenario has a lot of edges that the engineers haven’t thought about yet. You can’t turn up the volume yet, for instance, because the prototype was actually a set top box that voice could control.

“Record ESPN.”

But think about the kind of world we’ll have when more and more of our services are available to be controlled by our voice.

“Turn off stove.”

To have such a world we’ll need devices that have been “IP-ized.” That way a voice controller could understand your voice (that part is getting very close to being done) and send your commands over via a, say, REST interface to the device.

That is further off. I know Dave Winer has had a Denon receiver for quite a while that’s had a Web server embedded inside of it (if you knew the IP address of Dave’s receiver and knew his password, you could turn on and off his receiver from anywhere in the world).

“Make it warmer in here.”

Imagining such a world where everything is controllable via voice. It’s an interesting idea, but the industry has a long way to go, even to just “IP-ize” all the consumer electronics hooked up to my TV.

That’s why the one thing I think you’ll see out of the research projects we were shown on Monday is a new search engine that uses data that AT&T has access to. An iPhone-based Yellow Pages.

“Order a pizza please.”

Oh, well, I’ll take my pizza, even if I won’t be able to control my TV anytime soon.

Stunning: Yosemite Extreme Gigapixel Panoramic Imaging Project

First, Microsoft deserves a kudo for its Pro Photo Summit. John Harrington wrote up the highlights and linked to many of the coolest things.

But the coolest thing I saw on Wednesday?

Was something I saw at lunch: the Yosemite Extreme Gigapixel Panoramic Imaging Project. They mapped out Yosemite with 20 high-resolution panoramic cameras. To give you an idea how cool these images are, here’s an earlier version they did. The 20 new images should be up on the xRez site this week, they told me.

I liked it so much that I did three videos. If you only have time for one, watch this 17-minute video, which is the second one below.

The first video was one I filmed during lunch with Greg Downing and Eric Hanson, co founders of xRez Studios, which did the xRez Yosemite Gigapixel Project. They are the two geeks who built the systems to stitch together these huge images (gigapixels). Digital Producer has an indepth article on the technology they are using.

The second video and third video I filmed after the summit’s first day ended and things were a little quieter. This time Bill Crow of Microsoft’s Live Labs joined us. You can read his blog here, which is on HD Photography. These two videos not only give you a good tour around the Yosemite project, which contains some of the highest-resolution images of Yosemite ever seen (so much detail is in them that you can zoom into climbers on the top of Half Dome), but also Bill explains the technology that lets you view and zoom these images over the Internet. It’s called “Seadragon” and it’s quite remarkable. I wish these videos were a little sharper, but you’ll get the idea of just how cool this technology is.

Yes, that’s Thomas Hawk sitting next to Bill Crow.

Oh, and all of this stuff is demoed on Microsoft’s new Surface table-top computer, which is quite remarkable too. This is the first time I’ve really gotten a good hands-on look at the Surface and I see a TON of stuff that I liked a lot. I could play with one of those for hours.

Think Microsoft isn’t innovative? You can’t say that anymore, sorry.

Oh, and one more example of what Microsoft is doing in photography that just is magical: Microsoft’s Deep Photo. Dan Fay got first video of this new project and it’s wow. You’ll hear me in the front row saying “wow” when researcher Michael Cohen uses this technology to remove haze from an image of New York City.