Snoop Dog and

With the incredible potential of computers, it boggles the mind that only a small number of innovators have thought of dramatically increasing their potential by improving their ability to interact with us in a non-linear way.

Yet, it is precisely this type of approach that is bringing to the table a totally new way of looking at input devices for PCs. Specifically, two examples just like that crossed my desk recently.

Researchers at Sheridan College in Oakville, Ont. have invented a way to turn network traffic into a kind of music that allows administrators to passively monitor systems while engaged in other activities. This new technology combines the words information and music to come up with what they are calling iSIC. I’ve listened to the one type of music this program generates and it reminds me of Muzak. I admit the idea of network administrators being subjected to the life of an elevator operator appeals to me on some level, but I also grieve for all those Nine Inch Nails fans for their ensuing psychologist bills.

Think about how one listens to music in general — you flow with it. As long as that flow is rhythmic and uninterrupted, you can stay passively tuned.

But, as soon as that changes, you are instantly aware of it. This technology can be applied to any system which requires monitoring, and I see this as only the tip of the iceberg of a trend towards using music as a language for interacting with computers.

The Sheridan researchers consider this to be an example of bridging the sterility of techno-logy with the humanity of the arts. If this is indeed the case, then the next innovation I want to bring to your attention not only bridges the gap, but flings open the doors of perception and presents us with the infinite.

The Department of Computer Science at New York University is developing an input device which resembles a tabletop touch screen, but is so much more than that or anything you’ve seen outside a science fiction movie.

The basic idea of this wonder tool is to allow one or even multiple users to interact with a computer system at the same time as if they were playing a musical instrument. You can “play” this device with both hands just as you would a guitar. It’s also force-sensitive, which allows it to go beyond the traditional “poking” action of current computers by incorporating multi-dimensional arrays of data input.

Now, your actions have several simultaneous attenuators and this opens the door to many subtle shades and harmonies which can convey information on a number of levels. Quite honestly, when you consider this device, it’s staggering what it could mean to how we interact with computers and even each other.

Now, let’s take this a step further and combine these two innovations for the sake of seeing just how far we can go. A network admin using both these devices could create symphonies in a day’s work — a day’s work that on the surface has absolutely nothing to do with composing anything musical. In the future, we may be able to listen as well as learn from these musical works as we follow a professional through the day via music and perhaps abstract imagery.

I can see a time when the first dance at a wedding will be composed out of all the love letters e-mailed between the bride and the groom. Or, perhaps, chart-topping songs will be produced out of a tone-deaf accountant’s latest audit. Snoop Dog sampling tax audits? It’s a brave new world, folks.

QuickLink 060978

–Ducharme is editor of Reach him at