The eye-Phone: Reality is (almost) cooler than fiction

I’ll get to the eye-Phone in just a minute, after a bit of context.

The series of books that I’m in the middle of writing all take place in the first 5 years of the 21st century. For you and me, that’s only a few years ago, but in future decades I hope these books will be seen more as historical fiction than as stories that could have happened at any time. None of this means anything to the person buying a first edition today, but my hope is that the accuracy of facts, personalities, and social/political forces will become even more interesting as years pass and our current time period becomes part of more distant history.

These being techno-thrillers, I find that getting the technology right (that is, correct for the period) is one of the biggest challenges. The first book (Circumference of Darkness / Maximum Impact) features a great many elements that were educated guesses at the time they were written, but have since become (or been shown to be) realities. Now as I write the second novel, I seem to find something in the news on an almost daily basis that was conjecture only weeks ago, but is suddenly a real, emerging invention today.

This is a little frustrating, in that it would have been nice if science could have waited for my publication date before announcing some of these things; I would have seemed like more of a futurist. But, per the first paragraph, in a few years when history has blurred the exact time these innovations emerged, it won’t matter, so I’ll try to stop worrying about it.

That long introduction leads us to yesterday’s announcement of the eye-Phone. This camera-sized device is capable of recognizing what you photograph, much as human beings recognize things. I’m not talking about something dead-obvious like Mount Rushmore or the London Bridge; the concept of the device is that virtually any building, landmark, structure, object, or natural formation can be identified in seconds simply by photographing it.

The eye-Phone is the brainchild of Ernst Pechtl and Hans Geiger, and it works by combining the technologies of GPS, angle-matching, pattern-recognition, and the vast info-cloud that you’re now accessing. It’s really quite an amazing invention, and if you want to read more about it, you can do so here.

A few days ago I wrote a chapter that featured this very technology, and I was concerned that it might be a little too Star-Trekish for the reader to accept in a 2003-era device. Now that it’s been announced, it’s just one more detail that’s gone from prophetic to merely accurate. So goes the battle to stay ahead of the frickin’ curve.