From hypertext to hyperdevices

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When the Web started some 20 years ago, it brought a platform for distributing and accessing text, with an added dimension brought by links: hypertext. Because it was free and could be deployed everywhere easily, it was a revolution.

For the past few years, we've seen this additional dimension brought to media content, building hypermedia: SVG and canvas make it possible to build graphics that integrate or link to content from various sources, the addition of the audio and video tags in HTML5 are the starting points for making audio-video content as integrated into the Web as images have been. The Popcorn.js project illustrates for instance how video content can benefit from hyperlinking (much in the same way I had been exploring 2 years ago with my presentation viewer). Because these technologies are, can be deployed everywhere easily, I expect this will increasingly revolutionize our consumption of media.

I believe we're now starting to see a new trend of that sort, with the emergence of what I would call hyperdevices.

As more and more devices (mobile obviously, but also tablets, TV, cars, lightbulbs and many more) get connected, they more often that not get shipped with Web capabilities.

As the Web gains more and more access to the specific capabilities of these devices (touch interactions, geolocation, accelerometer, and many more), not only does it become a platform of choice to develop applications targeted at these devices (as we’re exploring in the MobiWebApp project), but it also creates new form of interactions across these devices that were not possible previously.

To illustrate that point, I've built a couple of very simple demos:

  • the remote whiteboard lets you use a touch-screen device to draw on another device screen, via the browser; in other words, it gives touch-capabilities to devices that don't have touch screens (e.g. most desktops or TV sets) — see the video of the demo in action
  • the 3D explorer lets you use a device with an accelerometer to rotate a 3D-graphic (in this case, the HTML5 logo) on a separate screen (see a video of the demo in action); it thus gives the equivalent of a 3D-mouse to any Web-enabled devices; whilst there probably are some 3D mouses out there, it's by far not as ubiquitous as mobile devices that come with an accelerometer

No Video Support. Transcript of the video:

In this demonstration, I'm using the browser on my mobile phone with accelerometer support to manipulate a 3D object viewed in the browser on my desktop computer. As I turn the phone, the rendering of the 3D object turns in synchronization.

This demo was built by Dominique Hazael-Massieux, only with W3C Web technologies. Find out more at

Note: If your browser does not support HTML5, you may still be able to view the video directly: mp4 version, webm version.

We're still at the very early days on this wave, but there is a growing interest around it. Device and service discovery (see recent discussions on Web Intents) will play a role there without a doubt, and the work done as part of the webinos project (where I'm involved) will hopefully also inform the technical challenges that are still to be overcome. We will also need plenty of creativity to invent user interactions that match these new capabilities.

But for sure, this is where we are going.

Follow me on Twitter: @dontcallemdom.

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