At In The Pocket, we’re always researching the next steps in technology. In the first part of this blog post series, we described how the smartphone slowly came into our lives but quickly dominated them completely. We also talked about s-curves and how technology gets adapted in our society, but also inevitably gets to the point of decline. So are smartphones. They tipped over the top of the s-curve and are ready to be replaced in the coming years. But what will come next? Can you imagine a life without a smartphone? In part 2, we will try to tell you it is just a matter of time!
In 2017 Hannes, our Chief Product Officer, already wrote an in-depth blog post about how the user interfaces we have known for the past 4 decades are not feeling natural at all. He states that while technology evolves, we should make sure it evolves in such a way that it adapts to us and by extension the way we use our senses. In 1968, interfaces came at a crossroads. With the famous ‘Sword of Damocles’ demo, computer scientist Ivan Sutherland demonstrated the very first VR/AR device. Almost at the same time, Douglas Engelbart presented the oN-Line System (NLS) which contained all of the elements we nowadays deem as a commodity in computer interfaces (windows, the computer mouse, hypertext, navigation, word processing, …). The next 4 decades, the latter became the standard in computer interfaces. The world just was not ready for VR and AR. And it would still take a long time before it would be.
One of the biggest downsides of this choice was that humans had to adapt themselves to the technology rather than the other way around. People had to use a keyboard and that weird concept of a mouse to guide a 2D pointer to some spot you are actually looking at on the 2D screen. This were new interactions we as humans had to learn, instead of computers adapting to our natural behaviours. Of course, throughout history, the screens got thinner, wires disappeared and appliances turned wireless, but what didn’t change was the unnatural way of interacting with technology. This also resulted in a lot of physical complaints like neck and back pain, problems with sight, a mouse arm, and so on. Until this day, all these problems still aren’t solved, but we’re making progress!
In 2013, Google released its Google Glass. It was a groundbreaking pair of glasses you could use to send text messages, find your way around with, take photos and videos and so much more. The device could be controlled with your voice our by touching the sides with a swipe of your finger. It was a revolutionary way of interacting with the same digital information we were interacting with through a 2D flat screen - flatware - for the past 35 years. People suddenly didn’t have to look down to read a text, it just appeared in front of their eyes. Following a GPS was as simple as viewing an arrow projected onto the streets you see in real life. The so-called Cognitive Distance, the gap between the form in which information is presented and the context in which it is applied, is nearly zero. When placing the information to digest into the context it has to be consumed in, a more natural way of interaction is created. Unfortunately for Google, they were way too early with their consumer product. It didn’t get the traction they hoped for, but was relaunched in 2017 as a B2B product. With success! Google Glass is now used worldwide in factories, healthcare and logistics.
Augmented Reality fixes the unnatural way of interacting with technology. Thanks to the AR Cloud, information will be tightly coupled to the context it belongs to in the real world. You will look at something and only by the fact you are gazing at some point, you will be interacting with a digital copy of the world. You could click by blinking or control your AR glass by voice. Your hands will be tracked, so you could also use hand gestures to indicate places or click digital buttons that appear onto the world. Instead of walking around constantly looking down at your smartphone, you could now walk upright and just interact with your texts in AR. No more aching necks and backs. Unfortunately for our neck and back pain, we’re still some more years away from AR being fully adopted by the consumer market. Until one of The Four Horsemen (Google, Amazon, Facebook or Apple) releases a consumer-ready AR glasses, we will still be catching Pokémon and casting spells in AR through the lens of our smartphone.
In part 1 we described why the era of the smartphone is almost over and in this second part, we guided you through what will be the successor of the small device that dominates our lives. Augmented Reality, and more specific AR glasses, will solve a lot of the unnatural ways of interacting with technology. Insiders aim for a consumer device launched by Apple in the near future. AR replacing the smartphone will only be a matter of time. But what if also things like advertising will conquer its place into the AR experience? Can we design AR in such a way we avoid people being flooded with all kinds of unwanted messages and signals? Let’s find out in Part 3 of this series.
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