Quick OmniStage history

Time for another ‘Enki talks about his failed projects’ storytime corner!

Around late 2006, I had this idea of how to ‘solve the IoT privacy problem’ & do ubiquitous computing with cheap consumer hardware.

Basically, the idea was that you’d have a hardware dongle that was your input device and contained your settings (or information about how to retrieve your settings/preferences from elsewhere). This dongle would be totally passive until you enabled it.

The idea is, you can identify a space where you can connect to a ubiquitous computing environment, and then you need to make a conscious decision to trust that space — one that corresponds to a contract with that space. (Basically — within reason, I trust this space to not fuck me over, and allow it in turn to access and modify my settings on my behalf.) This space is literally a building. Like, with a bunch of projectors in it. I wanted to replace cybercafes with collaborative public computing spaces.

This project was stuck in a conceptual phase until early 2007, when 3rd party clones of the wiimote became cheap and widespread, and open source wiimote interface libraries proliferated.

Then I made prototypes using the wiimote as input device.

What I was going for was something like what Alan Kay & Brett Victor are doing with dynamaland: you’d have a big communal space with big wall-sized screens & people could let each other collaborate by sharing write access to what they were working on. So it was going to be geared toward creative workplaces of the type they show in ads. (I didn’t realize those places were mostly imaginary.)

I actually gave a lightning talk at CFP 2008 about this. (I spoke right after moot.)

Killer: multi-pointer X didn’t exist yet, and also the wiimote wasn’t totally passive when not linked. (The wiimote also didn’t have enough space on it to store much, so I was going to have it store an ID & a keypair for accessing encrypted data on Amazon S3. I no longer think this is as good an idea as I did a decade ago.)

In the end, it’s one more project I half-did in high school that I still think is conceptually cool but will never happen.

Resident hypertext crank. Author of Big and Small Computing: Trajectories for the Future of Software. http://www.lord-enki.net