It is easy to dismiss Intel New Devices General Manager Dan Eisenhardt’s premise that by 2031, smart glasses will replace the hand-held smart devices that have become ubiquitous. Skeptics could bring up many potential barriers to adoption, including battery life, weight and style. There are those who were freed from the weight of glasses through the magic of surgery and the last thing they want is the bridge of a frame digging into their nose once again.
Eisenhardt, speaking at the 2016 Augmented World Expo (AWE) in Santa Clara, argues that the overriding factor that will drive adoption will be the need for a lower friction way for humans to process the immense amount of information coming from the billions of sensors in an Internet of Things world. In other words, if people want to stay competitive, they will need smart glasses and, as Chris Rittler of ABB alludes to, become part of the Internet of People.
Given the advances just between the 2015 and 2016 AWE, in terms of form factor, weight reduction and improved resolution, technology will probably not be the challenge in making Eisenhardt’s vision reality. In fact, reality becomes even more difficult to define in a world where 3D images are mixed with real objects. And the demonstrations of today’s tech are already impressive, as a virtual 3D sandwich looked pretty tasty in the ODG demonstration. In 15 years, the lines between what’s real and what’s projected could become extremely difficult, particularly for those who never take off their glasses.
Of course, seeing the data is only half of it, as one has to be able to manipulate the data. As with last year’s conference, there were various ways to uses one’s hands (either via pads that are held or gestures) to control the virtual screens, but for the novice, like this author, these still seem a bit clumsy.
The voice interface, which was the talk of Parks Associates Connections Conference, may offer an alternative to the clumsiness of trying to manipulate virtual objects with one’s hands. At that conference it was suggested researchers are moving beyond basic voice recognition to understand context and emotion (e.g. you say, “I’m leaving in a hurried tone” and your voice assistant says, “Don’t forget your jacket, as it is going to be cold later tonight”).
The idea of the movie Her where humans become attached to their machines isn’t so far-fetched as these technologies go through another cycle or two of revisions and it will probably be easier to communicate with a computer than another person. In fact, Roger Bindl’s animation from 10 years ago, where he humorously suggested that we will someday have implants to communicate (eliminating screens and user interfaces), is probably in the realm of possibility, particularly given the advancements in brainwave technology. At some point, it may become difficult to differentiate between human and computer; what is real and what is generated by computer.
In such a world, Eisenhardt pointed out that it is incumbent on the developers and marketers to be careful with the technology, as depending upon how it is used, it could drive people apart or bring them closer together.
Added 6/6/16 – Video of Dan Eisenhardt keynote:
Stay tuned for video coverage of AWE as well as the Connections Conference.