Do You Have an Aura?
Software agents will never be able to fulfill their potential, however, until there is an undetectable merger of human and technology. And while it's possible to hide a PDA in a pocket or a microprocessor in a shirt, something still has to be done about the interface equipment, such as keyboards and mouses. Even if a keyboard were built into clothing, people would still have to type on it. Voice input and output are possible, but that requires walking around talking to someone who isn't there. Research is under way that will teach computers to interpret hand gestures -- with embarrassing social results if you're spied in public. The best way to hide the interface is to minimize the need for it by making the computer smart enough to know the next thing you want to do.
MIThril's answer is mounting small infrared beacons, like mobile phone cells, throughout cities. These would communicate with the cameras and GPS systems in a person's vest to tell the computers on his body where he is and what he's doing -- and then let the computers decide what they need to find out next to direct him adequately.
Another approach, being developed at Carnegie Mellon, would offload the thinking power to an external network. With this system, called Aura, people would carry a unique identifier -- in either a miniscule PDA or a chip-enhanced ID card -- that connects them to the Net, which is constantly running through wireless Webs beamed from telephone poles, streetlights, conference rooms, airports, restaurants, and even offices. The network would be the tracking system and people would be the target. This could, for instance, alert you on a train to view a document that is already displayed on a flat electronic 8- by 11-inch tablet-folded, it's the size of a credit card -- because an e-mail scanned by Aura identified the document as urgent. "The system knows where I'm going at all times and moves my information with me," says Dan Siewiorek, director of the Carnegie Mellon Human-Computer Interaction Institute.