Making the cloud tangible

With every little tiptoe taken up towards the Cloud, it seems like we’re losing our grip on our content, I mean that literally. Using cheap physical tokens and NFC sensors on computers and devices, we can regain some of the tactility around the images and sounds we enjoy and shuffle around every day.

More hokey diagrams and not-so-subtle Apple worship after the jump…

Let’s start lending albums and movies again. Record stores might be endangered, but there’s something magical about gathering with others to curate, discuss and discover new music. The iTunes Store and similar websites feel cold and lonely compared to the old video rental place or the corner shop with that creepy but knowledgable guy at the counter.

This idea came together after I learned that Apple had bought Lala, which means a cloud-based iTunes is in the works. New rumors about iPhone 5’s RFID capabilities and massive data-centers mean that Apple has all the pieces in play to make this real — honestly I wouldn’t be surprised if they already have this running, and will soon deploy it and profit handsomely.

Let’s put a 2-way RFID sensor on mobile devices and computer, letting people transfer and lend content quickly across devices using simple gestures: Go to a party and swipe your phone against a Hi-Fi to get access to all your playlists. Swipe an iPad next to a TV and you can watch the movies and TV shows you’ve rented or purchased.

RFID can also be embedded into cheap exchangeable Cards. Stores could sell Cards printed with Album covers that you can take home, swipe, listen and own. The Card itself forever remains as a physical hyperlink – you can lend it to a friend or give it away permanently.

And finally, you can buy blank Cards and fill them up with songs or movies to categorize your stuff or give it away. all of a sudden, the lost art of the Mixtape (for better or worse) has returned.

At the end of the day, the Card is just a pointer to content in the Cloud. If it’s lost, or stolen, or heaven-forbid, you want to retract that mixtape, you can always “unbind” or change what they point to. The perfect mix of tangible, and ubiquitous.