The Object Network

Programming and sharing our own digital realities

Super-powers, but not yours

Although the Internet and smartphones are delivering great value on a global scale, things have tipped strongly into an 'us-and-them' model, where big companies, advertisers and governments know more about us than we feel comfortable with. Digital super-powers like Facebook, Twitter, Google and Apple design, build, run and own our complete digital experience. This bargain we've struck with them is mostly accepted as the way things have to be, and we accept the privacy and security risks of centralised services.

But nothing stands still: the current rise of Augmented Reality and the Internet of Things brings ever-deeper merging of our physical and digital environments, and along with that, ever-greater visibility and control by these centralised super-powers of the detail of our daily lives.

Casting your own spells

Arthur C. Clarke said "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic". The latest wave of Augmented Reality and the Internet of Things really can seem like magic. Augmented Reality brings digital artefacts onto the physical world. The Internet of Things brings physical devices into the digital world. The combination of the two represents an unprecedented merger of the physical and digital, and the opportunity for an equally unprecedented empowering of individuals.

We should all be empowered as wizards and magicians over this impending merge of physical and digital, able to cast 'spells' of our own - to create virtual castles inside our own homes - to create and animate our own digital and physical devices, environments and realities and link them directly, efficiently and securely to those of our family, friends and neighbours.

You should be able to 'walk' in 3D into your grandmother's digital house, pick up an identifier or link to the virtual version of her physical emergency button, then return to an augmented reality view of your living room to drop that link into your own light object.

You should then be able to write a simple rule that turns the light red when the button is pressed.

No centralised or proprietary apps or services - the button and light talk directly over the internet, regardless of who manufactured them, finding each other via those identifier links.

No inscrutable or proprietary programming - you wrote the rule yourself, just like writing a spreadsheet formula.

That is the future the Object Network aims to deliver.

What exactly is the Object Network?

The Object Network is a new way of building, linking, viewing and animating our digital 'stuff'. It includes a new programming language and a new network architecture. It's an open source, open standards, non-commercial ecosystem of live open data owned by us, in contrast to today's closed apps and services owned by others.

The Object Network is a distributed operating system for a global 'cyberspace' - an evolution of the web and of how we use the internet. It's targeted at Augmented Reality and the Internet of Things and will run natively on wearables and smart home, car, office and city devices, as well as regular mobiles and PCs.

What does the Object Network enable me to do that I couldn't do before?

The Object Network's goal is to empower users through (a) enabling everyone to build, program and share their own corner of the digital space via a user interface that make this no harder than spreadsheet programming, and (b) decentralisation, to remove your dependency on - and the boundaries of - centralised online services and mobile or web apps.

You will be able to build shared digital worlds, realities and programs in collaboration with others, in AR and using IoT devices, without relying on central services or closed apps. It will be more flexible, secure and robust. And it will be faster!

What's different or unique about the Object Network that allows that?

The Object Network assigns identifiers to every item of your physical and digital 'stuff' that enables them to link up into a global mesh and which allows those items to share their latest state and interact directly between your devices over the network, rather than via closed intermediaries.

The Object Network has a simple, powerful rule language for animating your digital stuff within the context of this dynamic global mesh, allowing any object to set its state to depend on that of local or remote peer objects' states viewed via these links, in a similar way to how a spreadsheet cell depends on other cells around it.

Duncan Cragg, 2016

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