After two days of presentations and for the most part being asked “is television dead?”, Emma and I decided to leave the ‘Buzz Hall’ of Cross Media Week’s main conference building for the ‘Tree House’, and a line-up of speakers and presentations very much more alive.

‘New Interfaces – How to interact with a connected world’ presented the studies and developments of four scientists working in the field of advanced media interfaces.

The most impressive was John Underkoffler, inventor of g-speak gestural interface technology and advisor to Steven Spielberg. G-speak replaces a conventional computer mouse with a glove that allows the user to point, push, pull and grab objects within a 3D graphical user interface.

If John de Mol was right yesterday and “the meaning is in the use,” what followed was impressive but mostly meaningless presentations. Dr. Emile Aarts from Philips Research Laboratories premiered LED technology that lit a room according to scenes in a film, placing the viewer in an immersive environment; a collaborative canvas on which two children could virtually paint together and thus, to quote Dr. Aarts, “be kept off the streets, and from smacking one another”; and, the most useless of all, LED fabric apparently best demonstrated by a soft cushion that bore a pink glowing heart.

Though I won’t be running out to buy one of those, if Jo Reid from HP Labs gets her way school children will be running from creatures great and small as she subjects them to what she calls, “Virtual Experience Environments” – or what anyone else might call, “placing small children in horrifying situations.” The technology allows schools to advance their pupils by allowing them to walk around existing environments, such as playgrounds and parks, and make them virtual by attaching audio and video feeds of scenes from the Discovery Channel: riots in Northern Ireland, hunting in the Savannah, the Second World War.

The future’s bright, I thought to myself. It’s also a little bit useless.

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