There have been a wave of new touch screen, mobile, and cloud-based emergent technologies out in the past few years. One of them is 'SixthSense', a wearable gestural interface that augments the physical world around us with digital information and lets us use natural hand gestures to interact with that information. Currently a Research Assistant and PhD candidate at MIT Media Lab, Pranav Mistry is the inventor of SixthSense. This game-changing technology is actually a wearable device that enables new interactions between the real world – just like the movie. He has also invented an invisible mouse called Mouseless, which is controlled by an infrared laser beam and an infrared camera, both of which are embedded in the computer itself. The current prototype system costs approximately $350 to build. Pranav is already a celebrity with some of his innovative inventions, yet in the library world, there's still some questions as to what exactly gesture-based computing or augmented reality can provide or benefit to libraries. Does the gesture of drawing a circle on the user’s wrist projecting an analog watch make for a practical application?
As I was listening in to discussions in my Digital Humanities Summer Institute session, I became more appreciative of the future of such technologies. It's not so much the technology -- rather, it's the social, political, and business end of things which must be evaluated and researched well in order for a technology to function and thrive. I liken the card catalog as analogous to gesture-based computing. With the card catalogue, a stationery flip card is just a piece of card board; however, with text and a collocation element, it becomes something much more. It becomes an essential tool of libraries, cataloguing, and classification. Despite its disappearance from libraries, its associations with the library are so heavily embedded that it's almost impossible to remove it entirely from the library lexicon. Library websites are often still referred to loosely as the library catalogue. So what can we learn about emerging technologies? Could we envision a future where library patrons can easily flip through entire shelves of books by just a wave of their arms? Can we envision a library where patrons don't even need to leave their couches, but can view entire shelves of books in the comfort of their homes? Some libraries are already thinking ahead it seems.