My Dream Browser

This story was written by CBS News' "Digital Dan" Dubno.

Whether it's finding new technology to tell stories better at CBS News or occasionally showing fresh bunches of gadgets on TV, searching for cool toys is very serious business.

Every day, people send me the latest and greatest devices. Personally, I confess that I do not care much for the latest chicken cookers, automatic pet feeders, or rocket-powered bottle openers. Still, they come.

My quest, my holy grail, has been to find the ultimate "everything" device… the perfect connector: a handheld thingamajig that connects all I need in the palm of my hand. As new Internet businesses emerge, as technology brings disparate media platforms together, the faraway dream or mirage of a "perfect" handheld device suddenly seems extraordinarily close at hand.

Here is part of what my "dream device" must do:

This device must know me... know exactly what I like and what I do not... and know what people "like me" like. This device must know precisely where I am so I can find what I'm looking for; not just restaurants and toilets, but everything nearby... from fishing lures to art supplies. This device must use such location knowledge to negotiate and barter for the best deals on my behalf. (If I want a cup of coffee, the device will not only show me where to get it but also let me know where the coffee is better or cheaper.)

My device must save me from danger. It must tell me if I parked where cars are frequently stolen or tell me if a hurricane is headed in my direction. I want this information mapped out: All my news, my weather, my contacts, displayed geographically — not only on a map — but layered selectively over photo realistic imagery. On this display, I'll see every building (both inside and out) rendered accurately in full 3D.

Here, I'll have all my content — all the time — never worrying where it comes from. Here, my 5,000-plus video sources will be elegantly organized and accessible. To find them, I will be able to search not only by name, but more intuitively: visually. The static icons of the familiar "GUI" (graphical-user-interface) will be dead. Instead, we will have a rich, interactive visual browser.

In the movie "Minority Report," Tom Cruise, in some far-off future time, moves vast amounts of video content with the touch of his fingertips. But controlling video streams by hand is something we already can do now. Take a look at this example: Here, CBS News Correspondent John Roberts uses the novel visual-driven touch-screen display we developed to report on the 2004 Election results.

Or another example: Here, on a tablet PC, I can visually choose from among many videos playing simultaneously. While the software is still in "beta," you can easily see we'll soon be selecting content more intuitively:


The idea of accessing all of this content from anywhere may seem daunting, but already most of my videos are accessible in the palm of my hand. Already, I can show you what's on my TIVO at home, displayed anywhere I can get an Internet connection. As I stood in Tel Aviv this week, I happily watched television recorded half a world away, using only a Sony PSP game handheld, powered by Sony's astounding new "LocationFree" technology.

For years, I've extolled the virtues of satellite imagery to provide the public with views of formerly "denied areas." By now, hopefully, you've begun to use Google Earth, an astounding free software download that lets you navigate through, literally, a world of imagery. But this is no longer just an elegant mapping tool nor simply another way to search for an address. While you can see your house from outer space or locate the closest pizza parlour, geographical browsers like Google Earth represent a paradigm shift. These new browsers will also allow to select from a myriad of information all referenced to specific locations on a map. Using these geographical browser, you'll view your weather, news, shopping information, and more, all referenced to real locations. (Google brilliantly provided the authoring tools for Google Earth to the public so anybody may create content for this new geographical interface.)

Since the Earth isn't flat, and neither are the buildings, I expect we'll see more locations fully-rendered in 3D. The tools to automate the process to create this 3D world lag a tad behind, but first we'll start navigating through more famous places on these new geographic browsers. To give you a sense of what some of these photo-realistic 3D views will look like, here's an example of the

(inside and outside), which appeared after the death of John Paul II.

One day, such photo-realistic models will be ubiquitous. Take a look at the remarkable use of such technology to display the crime scene in these excerpts from a recent broadcast of

The entire exterior and interior of the crime scene was meticulously recreated and the 3D model displayed in a virtual holographic presentation. (The holographic presentation was created using new software developed by Total Immersion.)

Technologies to automate the process of showing us the 3D world will radically transform television but other forms of content as well. This will be at the core of these revolutionary new geographical browsers that let us navigate location-based data.

Emerging new interfaces will stimulate new genres of devices and new methods of surfing for content: allowing us to drill down into a host of moving video choices and enabling devices with location intelligence (devoted to our preferences) to negotiate and barter furiously upon our behalf.
By "Digital Dan" Dubno