A somewhat intentionally late entry to the question of “5 things you’re thinking about right now“:
1. The Opposite of Foursquare
Foursquare is huge, check-ins are big, but I wouldn’t play that game or use that service. Whilst the idea is sound and people will still use the service, I find the concept of what the network looks like to FourSquare so much more interesting. When I check-in on Foursquare, what does that look like? And how does the map of London, for example, change during the day as people check in and drop offline.
Given that a lot of people are not going to use Foursquare because each contact with the network compromises their privacy and reveals more and more information about them, I think there’s a hard limit to how successful the idea can be. However, the opposite of foursquare, focussing on the shape of the network rather than the individuals connecting to it, removes that limit. Each time I check in, rather than just appending my +1 to a long list of identical entries, I disrupt the fabric of the network and make it better. I think a lot about the way “massively multiplayer” games are anything but, and flatter to deceive on the promise of joining a virtual, alternate world. Flipping the idea of Foursquare and looking at the network as a constantly evolving organism has a lot of potential for fun, games and stories, and that’s what I’m thinking about right now.
2. The Half Life of Hardware
Specifically, of course, games hardware. Consoles. We’re at a point where the Xbox 360, Wii, DS and PS3 have been on sale for around five years and there are no signs of a subsequent generation of hardware being released. Clearly, launching an expensive piece of hardware at the current time would be foolish, not least because it would fragment the games market and potentially ruin the huge community that has built up around the online services offered by Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo. However, all the major consoles must be close to the end of their expected lifetimes, and given that there are no clear plans for new hardware to come out, it’s interesting to see how the manufacturers are responding as their consoles go beyond the red line, as it were.
As computer processors got faster and faster, CPU manufacturers were involved in a Gigahertz race until they went about as fast as they could before it became a fruitless task. At which point they branched out into multiple cores, faster RAM, smarter graphics and anything else that differentiated themselves from one another. Nintendo, with the Wii console, took the first step in pulling back from the race to better graphics fidelity and branched out with a different input mechanism (the Wii-mote), as well as creating a hugely successful, truly mainstream gaming device in the shaped of the DS, and were rewarded massively for doing so.
Now, as Sony and Microsoft look to emulate the success of the Wiimote controller with their own Kinect and Move products, the DS has fragmented their product line with the DS, DSi, DSi XL and 3DS. Either they’re one step ahead of the game again, or they’re about to introduce massive confusion into their product line.
3. Practical, Physical Things
At a recent Made By Many get-together almost everyone expressed an interest in making physical, connected things. Fun devices like the s2h watch have influenced our thinking, and from reading the other 5 things lists, we’re not alone in that.
However, once you break down what the connected things you want to build should do, it’s hard not to build an iPhone/Android app instead. A smartphone houses so many sensors these days, and comes with distribution and payment platforms as part of the infrastructure, that it would be foolish to build something that attempts to compete on just one of those feature sets. But then there are games like Rock Band, Guitar Hero and my personal favourite, Buzz!, a game which ships with a big, red, game-show buzzer.
Physical, connected devices are still exciting, and there’s reason to keep thinking about building something with them, but it might just end up as a big, obvious button that connects to something more interesting, a MacGuffin for play.
4. Casual, Responsible Gambling
A personal interest, and specifically in Europe. My guess is that the gambling companies are looking at rise of sharing, social applications on the internet and are trying to figure out how to tap into that. It’s not about building the Twitter/Facebook/Foursquare of betting, but the niche networks of friends that exist across those services, and the competitiveness that arises when you make things personal.
Moreover, with gambling banned in the US, it’s a great opportunity for startups in Europe, such as Smarkets, to iterate their ideas and build themselves into a significant force. When, and not if, the US legalises gambling, the same European start-ups will be in a great position to take advantage of a huge market with a well-tested gambling platform.
5. The Return to the Internet as a Delivery Mechanism
Rather than the Internet as the destination, that is. I think we’re reaching a point where the need to be “online, all the time” has faded. Perhaps it’s the novelty, but I’d like to think that we’re going to exhaust the desire to be as up-to-date on everything as possible, to be consistently ahead of the news and to know everything your friends are doing as soon as they make it public.
From here on in though, maybe we’ll all be connected whilst doing something else. It’s Reverse Continuous Partial Attention – the opposite of being online first and foremost, and doing everything else in the moments in-between. It would be nice to think that in future we’ll be more involved in doing things in the real world, and pervasively connecting to the internet only to update ourselves and our friends. The real-time internet got plenty of attention, but asynchronous just works better and fits ourlives. I think this connects with 1 too, imagine everbody offline and doing things but checking in and disrupting things.
Bonus ball, Health Apps
I’m not really thinking about this, but someone smarter than I mentioned that the demise of Woolworths will hit the health and fitness DVD market hard. And that makes sense – it’s a seasonal business with most of the DVDs sold in January as people plan to get fit again, but with no Woolworths on every high street to (glumly) sell them, where are people going to buy them?
I’d love to know if all of the C-list celebrities who tend to film these DVDs have been told not to put on their lycra leggings this year. Maybe all fitness filming sessions have been canned for the time being. I suspect not, though, because I imagine we’ll see a huge influx of health and fitness apps on the iPhone and iPad to compete with the already large number of fitness ‘games’ available on the Wii come the New Year.