Published in Blog Posts
07 Aug, 2010 Posted by:


Ryoanji Temple’s Tsukubai at Kyoto, Japan; which says: “I learn only to be contented.”

The main task of the first generation of computers was “computation”, for example, computing differential equations. This changed in late 1960′s with the advent of ARPANET’s university network where the task of “communication” was added to the major tasks of computers. In fact, the computers were still performing computation in order to enable communication, but computing went to the background for the seamless support of the new task. The third generation computers, in early 1990′s, enabled “information access” through WWW. This time communication took the backseat in support of information-access. So what’s next in the forefront of computing?

I think the next generation computers are tasked to blend the real-world with the virtual-world. We are already witnessing this through the excitements over location-based-services, social-networks, participatory-sensing (crowd sourcing) and online map-mashups. At IMSC, we call this new geo-socio-temporal computing paradigm: “Geo-Immersion”. This is when information-access will become a supporting tool for people’s playing, working, learning, etc.

This paradigm uses the four dimensions of “what, when, where and who” to enable people naturally operate in this hybrid virtual-real world. After all, human brain is wired to operate in time and space. For example, I am obsessed with planning my future based on where and when (conflicting with my spiritual teaching of living in the present). Then why not use the same concepts in the virtual world to both operate more naturally (by transparently accessing information, communicating and computing) and better integrate the real-world data, phenomena and observations into the virtual world.

I am excited about this new paradigm as it encompasses research in many of my favorite topics such as multimedia, participatory-sensing, privacy, trust, web, geospatial and temporal data management, etc. But more importantly, it brings up new fundamental research challenges in computer and social sciences. For example, how would one blends social-networks (represented as a graph) with geospatial (represented as 2D or 3D space) and temporal (represented as points or intervals) spaces? Is it possible to derive social-networks by analyzing people’s movements in time and space? How about the other way around? At IMSC, we have just started scratching the surface of this transformative paradigm.

But above all, this paradigm enables people to “connect” across time and space. Isn’t this what humanity is all about after all?