Sam Likely - Assignment 3 - Hybrid Space

Hybrid Space – Google Goggles goggles_logo.png

The evolution of mobile computing technology over the past decade has led to increasing interconnectivity, both between the users themselves and between a user and their physical surroundings. The later of these connections, between the user and the real world, is the result of the mobilization of the internet. Mobile technology, whether it is a cell phone with GPS and web access or an ultra-portable netbook with WiFi, allows a user to carry with the internet with them virtually wherever they go. This allows the vast amounts of information available on the internet to be tailored to a user’s current location and surrounding physical space. This mobilization of the internet adds another layer of reality to the physical world and transforms a space into what Adriana de Souza e Silva describes as a hybrid space.

“… mobile devices create a more dynamic relationship with the Internet,
embedding it in outdoor, everyday activities, we can no longer address the disconnection
between physical and digital spaces. I name this new type of space hybrid space.”
(de Souza e Silva, pg 262)

To determine one the new possibilities that hybrid spaces provide I chose to examine a cell phone application that intends to embed a vital part of the cyberspace internet experience, namely the Google search, seamlessly into our interaction with hybrid spaces. Google Goggles searches the internet based on photos taken by the user combined with GPS information from the user’s cell phone. This completely changes the way a user can access information about their surrounding physical world as previous search options had been limited to text or speech based queries. Users can also simply point their cell phone cameras at buildings in the physical world and Google Goggles will return information based on location alone. This ability to use GPS information to increase the effectiveness of a user's interaction with the physical world is central to the concept of hybrid space, as the text says "Perhaps the most relevant feature of the cell phone in defining how mobile interfaces can influence our interaction with other users and with the space we inhabit is its location awareness." (de Souza e Silva, pg 273)

The Google Goggles technology allows a user to access an augmented level of information about their physical surroundings by using visual inputs. As most of us experience the physical world primarily through visual stimuli this leads to a more natural, integrated searching process. This integration of technology and reality is fundamental to hybrid spaces as users should not feel that they are experiencing two separate, concurrent realities but instead a combined hybrid reality. This is already the case in some places for example the users of the high speed i-mode standard cell phone network in Japan "… do not perceive physical and digital spaces as separate entities and do not have the feeling of “entering” the Internet, or being immersed in digital spaces…" (de Souza e Silva, pg 263)

The Google Goggles cell phone application aims to increase the abilities and access to knowledge a user has in a hybrid space versus a solely physical space. When this increased access to knowledge is combined with increasing coverage and speed of wireless internet access, and more precise location awareness, it seems inevitable that the hybrid world has and will continue to change the way we connect, interact and live.

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