May 16, 2011 Leave a comment
At every conference, on every blog, in every trade, everyone always wants to talk about “what’s next.” What’s going to be the next disruptive technology, what’s going to be the next big consumer trend, what will people be doing five years from now and how can I prepare for it? How can I be poised to profit from it?
I don’t have a crystal ball or claim to know the future, but since my guess is as good as anyone else’s (maybe a little better), I’m going to take a stab at it.
Before I dive into my predictions, I need to post a favorite quote of mine:
I’ve always loved this quote and was reminded of it this morning, thanks to Seth Godin’s daily email. I’m not going to talk about a new iPad, or Thunderbolt connections, or the next big social game (although I have a pretty good idea of what it will be). I’m talking about magic. Or at least, things that will appear to be magic.
When a new iPhone comes out, or someone shrinks a camera down to the head of a pin, no one confuses it for magic. No one wonders how an image is captured or how a touchscreen works. In fact, people have come to expect those things. Try selling a laptop without a built in video camera the size of a button, unless it’s the “entry-level” model, that missing feature will definitely show up on the “cons” list.
So what will we develop that will be “indistinguishable form magic?” The biggest thing (IMHO) will be crossing the divide between the digital world and the physical world. Notice I say “crossing the divide” and “bridging the gap.” We are already bridging the gap. Augmented reality, apps like Layar, Yelp‘s Monocle and others already bring a data layer to the real world. And this is no small feat. But it’s not magic. We’ve been looking at screens for the last 30+ years to see things that aren’t really there. They got smallers, clearer and brighter, but it’s still a screen. It’s a still a device. How different is a smartphone from a Tricorder? And Tricorders first appeared in 1966.
When all that data whizzing past our heads on wi-fi frequencies makes the leap from screen to real life, we will see something truly amazing. The technology is already here.
Screens are suddenly anywhere you want them to be. Your camera is always with you. Your entire digital library is with you all the time and instantly shareable, not with one or two friends crowding around your iPad, but with an entire room. or park. or airplane.
And while these are all really fun examples of how you can project information for everyone to see, what about stuff you don’t want everyone to see? Augmented reality contact lenses make your entire field of view your “screen.” What does that mean? It means the entire internet is available to you all the time, no matter what you are doing. It means that you can have information on any subject, laid out right in front of you.
Consider this example: You are at a cocktail party and you meet someone you recognize. Instead of playing the “where did you go to school, where do you work, do you know so-and-so, game,” your contact lens scans their face. Facial recognition software syncs up with Facebook and pulls up their profile. As you are talking about the awesome buffalo chicken dip or how bad the music is, your mutual friend list is pulled up alongside their face. As is a list of their most recent Foursquare check-ins, their Twitter feed and even a google search of their name.
Or another one. You and your significant other are planning a trip. As she names places to go, audio recognition software is pulling up weather reports, hotel recommendations and photos that your friends have tagged with the location from their trips there.
There are endless possibilities for having a real-life Heads Up Display. Remember the first Terminator movie? When Arnold is in the bathroom and needs to choose from a list of phrases to tell the guy banging on the door to go away?
Why couldn’t we do the same thing to help people give speeches, or flirt with women? Or provide doctors with check-lists to make sure they have considered every possibility or remembered to remove every sponge.
Again, this technology is already starting to appear. The Brazilian police are using glasses with facial recognition technology to spot criminals in crowds.
One issue that will need to be solved for these technologies to see widespread adoption will be the batteries. I’ve written before about the need for leaps and bounds in battery technology and I’m sure we will see these before we know it. But until we can power devices around the clock, we won’t truly see people living in a hybrid reality.
Even as cool as the above technologies will be, I am confident that by the time the next great thing comes into existence I will once again be dumfounded. Because the most disruptive technologies are the ones that no one sees coming until they’re already here.
- An end of magic (sethgodin.typepad.com)