In technology we’ve entered The Golden Age of Incremental Improvements, that point in the space time continuum where everything changes but just not that much. Witness the giant leap forward the iPhone made in 2007, but compare the iPhone 7 to the original. It’s been a dramatic change made by mostly incremental improvements year after year.
What’s the next great thing? What’s the next leap forward?
I propose that the next great thing is here already, but it’s just not all that great. Yet. Sure, in the next few years our iPhones will get better facial recognition, perhaps audio voice prints for improved security, even an iris scanner, but there are times where massive technology advancements occur while we’re watching but not paying much attention.
The next great thing? A confluence of artificial intelligence and personal assistants; or, put another way, a mashup of Siri meets AI.
We’ve seen it in the movies and on TV already, and it’s been written about in science fiction for decades, but the future of our relationship with technology may be based more upon a personalize artificial intelligence than it will smartphone screen densities, better cameras, or more storage.
It all starts with speech recognition and already Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, Amazon’s Alexa, and Google’s whatever-its-name-is are presenting us with a preview of that future. We speak. AI persona listens and acts accordingly.
Yes, all this technology is massively complex with a variety of disparate elements that must work well together, so we’re not likely to see a revolutionary jump forward similar to what the iPhone brought us in 2007 with a big touchscreen, or even the graphical user interface of point and click on the original Macs. But when it gets here we’ll look back and go, “Wow. This stuff is pretty cool.” But we’ll do that in hindsight, pretty much the same way we should look at iPhone 7.
Today’s newest iPhones are not ‘gee whiz golly wow’ devices– until they’re compared with the past. We’re always comparing today’s advancements as if a new future comes to us with every annual upgrade. Technology doesn’t work that way. Sometimes we just need to exercise the patience needed to allow the future to happen, but temper our view of what’s here now with a little reflection on the past.
So, what’s coming? Siri, meet AI.
This is a war between technology giants that has just begun and each of the major companies– and there are more than Apple, Google, Microsoft, et al– has a stake and a place at the table. What we should end up with is a device which communicates with us on a personal basis, as Siri does now with a query or action request, but with more fulfillment, more complex requests, even to the point of interacting AI to AI to help us through our day.
Already third party applications are being integrated into what Siri and her friends on other platforms can do, and that’s likely to continue for many years; improving incrementally, but always raising the bar forward (mixed metaphors were on sale at Target last week). In a few years Apple will give Siri a face, and the bond of attachment between user and device will grow. A few years after that we can expect personal robots to expand the market and that’s a space where Apple needs to be.
What of augmented reality and virtual reality?
I’ve seen both and the former is more interesting than the latter, although personal pleasure devices might alter that perspective. Regardless, both are merely steps toward the reality of ‘I, Robot.’