As a former neuroscience researcher turned software guy and semi-consistent user of a brain now for several decades, I believe the ultimate user experience with technology happens when there’s a type of transparency between the user and the technology. It almost feels like the technology is just an extension of everyday thinking. You don’t have to be trained, you just know how to use it. From this perspective, Microsoft Labs’ Pivot looks like it has the potential to be disruptive to search, operating systems and social media.I’m only judging from this TED video as I’m on a mac at the moment. Watching the video, the cross-referencing of information seems oddly familiar, like when you’re having a conversation with a friend that mentions an event in your past, something like: “Hey, remember that dinner we had with Steve last week?” In an instant our minds turn to that night, the conversation, location, Steve, your friend, the food, the drinks, the building, the view, what happened on the way there and on the way home, who was talking to whom, what new people you might have met and any impacts that night has had. Our minds naturally zoom to different times, places and concepts, explore related material, then zoom in again on specific incidents and objects. From the video, Pivot seems to organize information as an extension of those very same thought patterns. As a learning and education tool I can see immense potential for the ability to reinforce educational connections and provide much needed context around the content. Imagine learning about history with all the connected pieces of people, places and things that create a sort of infosphere. The Wikipedia example shows how Pivot provides a sort of networked map of human knowledge. Seeing scientific info indexed and connected in this way could lead to some keen insights. Several years ago, a friend and I were imagining an OS interface that worked like a mindmap, and this is the closest incarnation of that idea that I’ve seen. Imagine if your files were connected in a similar manner. I can also imagine where something like Pivot is extended to social networks help build communities around subjects and help us understand our own little niche in the world. Think about how you will literally “find yourself” and the connections with people and ideas available to you in your network. Really fantastic possibilities for accelerating serendipity and deepening otherwise thin connections in your network. Oddly, it looks like it would be great with an iPad multitouch display (a bit frustrating watching the mouse move around). Wonder what the chances are that they’ll build an iPhone/iPad version soon? 😉 Lots of potential in health care as well, but that deserves a whole other post.