Cross-device interaction and wearable electronics at Citrix Synergy 2013

Google Glass is only the beginning...

Amid a slew of product announcements designed to enable "mobile workstyles," Citrix is already looking ahead to the next phase of enterprise innovation, with a focus on cloud computing as a platform for new mobile services.

Speaking to Techworld at the Citrix Synergy conference in Los Angeles, Martin Duursma, VP of Citrix Labs and CTO Office Chair, described a project called "Crystal Palace," which aims to break down barriers between operating systems that prevent devices from interacting in a seamless fashion.

Crystal Palace is a cloud service that all of the user's devices are registered to -- say for example an Android smartphone, an Apple iPad and a Windows laptop. An agent runs on each device, and can send instructions to the agents on the other devices via the cloud service.

So if the user wanted to copy and paste a line of text from an SMS on their mobile phone to a document on their laptop, they could simply copy and paste the text into a cloud-based copy buffer, and when they presse 'paste' on their desktop the words would appear in the document.

Alternatively, the user might be watching a video on their tablet and want to switch to a larger screen. Crystal Palace has a tool which allows the user to move the video to one of their other registered devices, and the video picks up on that other device in the place they left off.

"We're thinking about cross-device interaction, because today each device is its own silo and it shouldn't be like that. Why can't you have a personal cloud?" said Duursma.

"We're also planning to extend that to your friends, so it's not just sharing data between your own devices; you can choose a name from a list of friends and that video will start playing on their device."

Citrix Labs currently has a prototype of Crystal Palace running, and plans to run a limited customer trial to get feedback on what features could be added and what productisation route it might take.

Duursma also told Techworld about the company's predictions for wearable electronics, following the unveiling of Google Glass earlier this month. He said that wearables are undoubtedly "the next big wave," but asserted that Google had not necessarily got it right first time.

"I don't like Google Glass. I've used them, I've spend hours with them. To me it was a very tiring experience, because what they decided to do was place the screen out of your direct line of vision. Their view was, you can keep looking normally and then you can look up, but after an hour of looking up my eyes were getting tired," he said.

"Other people are coming up with devices that are see-through, so the screen is in your direct line of vision. I think that's probably a more workable solution. But the way to think about it is, wearables will be happening, and Google is doing some great innovation to kickstart people's thinking."

Duursma pointed to Pebble, the wrist-mounted device that connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth to deliver notifications. He said that this could be a useful enterprise tool to alert employees when a meeting is about to start or notify them of an urgent message.

Citrix is now thinking about the enterprise use cases for wearable electronics, and the types of applications that it could write for those that already exist.

For example, an employee might be participating in a virtual meeting while walking down the street, so would not want the images to be projected directly in their line of vision. There is potential for an augmented reality application that would project the meeting onto a billboard, so as the user turns their head the projection stays where it is.

Duursma warned that work still needs to be done to improve positioning technologies for these types of augmented reality applications, especially in urban settings where it can be difficult to get a good GPS signal. However, he was optimistic that this would improve.

"It's early days, this is probably going to get better in the next two or three years -- there are new positioning systems coming out, there's a new version of GPS coming out, there are some new satellites that will be more accurate," he said.

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