Much ado about context

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Our resident graphics guru Chace just clued me in to an amazing feature in the newly-released Adobe Photoshop CS5. Dubbed “content-aware fill”, this nifty tool fills or rebuilds a selected or deleted area of an image with startling accuracy by drawing on information from the surrounding regions.

The results are stupefying to say the least. Content-aware fill makes short work of previously time-consuming touch-up tasks, saving designers and photographers tons of time. Some have even said, with some validity, that this feature will turn every user into a professional photographer, without him or her even having to try.

The reason I’m exalting content-aware fill isn’t just because I’m utterly blown away by its ingenuity (ok, that’s 90% of the reason), but because it lends credence to what I’ve been saying about the importance of context in computing.

As with content-aware fill, where the intelligent interpretation of the selected area’s surroundings is the key to mind-boggling results, so too is a precise and considered reading of a user’s context the means to delivering relevant information, services and functionality – stuff that a user expects, needs and will eventually come to appreciate and value.

Of course, it shouldn’t require users to understand the complex algorithms bubbling beneath, nor possess oodles of prior knowledge.

Like content-aware fill — and any other good technology — it should just work.

As the inexorable cloud continues to engulf us, my earnest belief is that the first company that gets this right will take the proverbial cake.

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