Tuesday, June 12, 2007

SeaDragon and PhotoSynth

I love to bash Microsoft every opportunity that I get. Which tech geek doesn't? However, I also recognise good technology when I see one. In recent years, there has been a lot of innovation in the user interface domain. A lot of exciting research and development is going on in that space as people have come to realise that the desktop metaphor use for most computers is dated. It's almost as old as me, which makes me dated!

Today, I stumbled upon this cool new technology that Microsoft had acquired not so long ago. It's called SeaDragon, which belongs to a whole class of technology, collectively known as Zooming User Interface (ZUI). All I can say is that the thingie really impresses. It's implications are enormous. The most interesting use of that current technology within Microsoft is a project called PhotoSynth, which allows contextual information to be retrieved from a myriad of images. Watch the video below and prepare to be amazed.

The engine is definitely very cool. However, I do not believe that this product will be properly used by Microsoft. I believe that they will try to integrate it into their Windows OS in order to have the kind of super user interfaces that the other major OSes have. But that is like trying to tack a Mona Lisa onto a termite infested frame and it wouldn't work. Windows as an OS is a broken piece of technology. They've spent billions trying to fix it and it's still broken. I'm afraid that if they tack on this ZUI onto their OS, it will just devalue the worth of SeaDragon.

What Microsoft should do is to open up SeaDragon and license it out for other users. If it works as well as advertised, it will be quickly adopted by other OS and application vendors into their system. This will ensure that the technology gets the widest audience and garner some good karma for the company. However, knowing Microsoft, their marketing department will somehow find a way to screw this up. In the end, SeaDragon will likely end up like every other bit of Microsoft technology, in the junk heap.

Everyone wants a Minority Report user interface. Just help us get it!

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