Dr Kate Stone: '˜I believe the next stage for tech is for it to disappear'

The scientist almost killed in a stag attack is working on putting '˜digital souls' into everyday objects to change our lives.

The world's thinnest mixing decks. Picture: Contributed.

For Dr Kate Stone, the next big thing for technology is for it all to disappear.

Everyday objects from a lamppost to a wall to a notebook will be fitted with “digital souls” that we can touch to make amazing things happen.

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Dr Stone speaks of magic wands, of Harry Potter and how “dream worlds” might just exist if we can bring ordinary objects to life through our fingertips.

Dr Kate Stone

To illustrate the point, she reaches for the brim of her cork baseball hat and gives it a squeeze – out comes the sound of a klaxon.

She has turned her notebook into a piano, created the world’s thinnest set of mixing decks from a sheet of cardboard and completed a successful trial with Tesco to have talking supermarket shelves.

An Audi TT car brochure was fitted with a virtual cockpit which the user could navigate by touching the page. Playable gardens have been made for music festivals. In all cases, there is no perceivable technology on show.

The scientist – who is also the director of digital printing company Novalia – is at Aberdeen University sharing her thoughts on how we will interact with technology in the future and how the power of touch will direct our world.

Dr Kate Stone

“Computers used to fill a room, now they fill a pocket, now their destiny is to disappear to within everything,” she says, sitting on a deckchair outside King’s College.

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“We live in our world that pretty much looks like hundreds of years ago in lots of ways, but it’s coated in technology, almost like a moss that has suddenly become overgrown.

“I believe the next stage for technology is for it to actually disappear to within, so you can’t see it, but it is there.”

While smartphone technology has changed the way we live it is also restricted to a “little block that we carry in our pocket”, she says.

“What if we can break that out and make it splat on every single surface?”

The world of Dr Kate Stone, whose family still live in north-east Scotland, is vivid, colourful and fast-moving with her travelling the world to share and demonstrate her theories – New York one day, Aberdeen the next, Malmo the day after.

She doesn’t have a house as such but she sleeps in a hammock outside her office in Cambridge when “home”. “Some people are between homes. I am between trees,” she says.

Dr Stone is thundering through every moment, every second – perhaps even every nanosecond – after fully recovering from a stag attack near Fort William in December 2013.

She was put in an induced coma after her windpipe was punctured and her neck broken by the panicked animal’s antlers. Had her injuries been 2mm to either side, she would have died, such was the force of the blow.

Dr Stone says what she now calls her “stagccident” is something you don’t get over, but that it has given her more resolve, more determination and a stronger belief in who she is and what she can do.

“Every bump we go over becomes part of who you are. That was big, big gory bump and that has become a part of who I am,” she says.

She says she always felt acutely aware that life could go at any moment – and as she lay on the ground after the attack, she felt a “contentment”.

“When I am lying on the forest floor my neck cut open by a stag I don’t even have a moment of, ‘Why me, if only I hadn’t done this, If only I had not done this.

“I am laying on the forest floor with only one thought – that this was always going to happen. My mind is left with the ability to do only one thing – focus on the moment, breath by breath.

“I was resigned to die, not in a bad way, in a contented way, proud of who I am and what I have done, so let’s just enjoy my last moments.”

Following the accident, she was also invited to sit on the Editor’s Code of Practice Committee at press regulator IPSO.

It happened after her private life was “trampled on” following her accident and six newspapers made references to her transgender status – she began her transition to Kate in 2007 – as part of their coverage.

“To find an industry that wants me to be part of regulation is incredibly surreal. Some of the people who wrote the worst headlines are now my friends,” she said.

For her, being asked to join IPSO was another form of acceptance.

“I sit on that committee not to represent a certain group. I sit there as a person who an intelligent, compassionate outlook to represent all people.

“I’ve been given a seat at the table.”