Future Control, a 2.0 Version of Google Now?

By March 31, 2014
future control

An Israeli designer has invented a system that would predict the future and give actionable advice and suggestions to users.

In June 2012, during Google’s developer-focussed I/O conference, Google unveiled Google Now, a smart personal assistant which promised Android users they would be “always one step ahead”. Google Now, which is based on voice recognition, natural language processing and speech synthesis, provides calculated responses and recommendations and also suggests actions which should be delegated to others. Now Israeli designer Dor Tal has come up with a system called Future Control, basing his work on the research and products developed by Google for its application. This new concept, developed at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem, makes an extremely daring promise: predicting the future. The Future Control system comprises a smart wristband and a projector which will communicate with each other, inform the user about events that are due to happen in the next few hours or days, predict the user’s needs and wants and recommend actions.

Advanced personal assistant

The Google Now service already pulls together all the information on your Google accounts – Gmail, Maps, Drive, Agenda, etc. – and is able to synthesise the data so as to make actionable suggestions tailored to your known habits. Future Control takes this personal data gathering and advice formulation one or two steps further with the intention of becoming the personal assistant of the future. The first element in the system is an app which, once downloaded on to your smartphone, will scour the social networks for any data generated about you or other people and organisations that might affect you. The information it will collect includes input and output from your email and messaging systems, social networks, location data, calls, calendar entries, bank accounts, etc and it also extends the search to your family and friends. The system will then use artificial intelligence to build up a body of knowledge on your relationships with your circle of friends, family, colleagues, partners, etc so as to be able to predict what you could or should do in response to their actions. In addition to the smartphone app, Future Control comprises two pieces of hardware: a ‘smart’ wristband that incorporates a micro-projector which will display a timeline with recommendations on the palm of your hand; and a projector enabling a similar display on a wall in your office or at your home.

Business potential, privacy questions

From its information gathering, the system will know the latest films the user has seen, the latest restaurant s/he ate at and any recent trip s/he made and – perhaps more importantly – cross-referenced information on the people s/he was with. In a video illustrating the project, a young man is warned that his fiancée is feeling depressed because she is overloaded with work. This emerges from a message she has sent to one of her friends. Future Control clicks into action, suggesting that the young man should buy her some flowers right away. The video also shows how the app will, once the algorithm is fully developed, be able to predict that the user will be playing basketball outside on a given day, as the weather is forecast to be good and his friends are talking about arranging a game. The Future Control system also offers some interesting opportunities for brands and e-commerce retailers. These kinds of businesses might well use such information to offer their services based on recommendations made by the personal assistant. There might be one drawback here though: questions could be raised about the implications for data privacy and security.

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