If thereâs one thing I always take with me, itâs my smartphone. Iâm sure most of you do too.
But what if I told you that the device you may be holding in your hands while you read this article could reach the end of its road? At first it seems unlikely that these devices that get bigger, slimmer, stronger and better every couple of months could soon become a thing of the past. Global smartphone sales have risen from $330.4 billion in 2013 to $428.9 billion in 2016, and there is no indication this trend might soon change.
But hear me out. New technologies like virtual reality and augmented reality have proven to be more than just a fad. Theyâre also the best candidates for a gadget that could replace our smartphones.
The first signs of change are already here: smartphones that provide AR functionality and can be inserted into various VR headsets and used for experiencing VR content. However, theyâre definitely not ideal for this specific task; waving a screen slab in front of your face isnât just weird, itâs also impractical. Not to mention that they get really hot!
We still use smartphones simply because â at the moment â theyâre the smallest, lightest, and the most powerful mobile devices out there.
But what if there is better, more elegant solution â a lightweight, AR/VR device that looks just like your regular glasses?
It would offer the same features as our smartphones and more: Put on AR/VR glasses and you could read your babyâs temperature at a glance, or translate texts and spoken language in real time â without looking down at your phone. I know what youâre thinking: the flop that is Google Glass.
To that I say youâre right â but also wrong. Remember that modern VR is built on failures of old, clunky devices of the late 1980s and 1990s. Although VR still hasnât reached its full potential, itâs already proven its viability by reaching a stage where it provides adequate visual fidelity while being light enough to be worn for prolonged periods. Itâs also getting more affordable by the day.
Much like these early VR headsets, Google Glass is an interesting concept, but many of its drawbacks and inadequacies indicate that itâs still not mature enough to sway the mainstream market. Instead, it remains a valuable indicator as to what the final form of new and better devices should be.
Â boss Mark Zuckerberg knows this. He claims AR is the next big thing, and he sees Facebook leading the way. At the companyâs annual developer conference a few weeks ago, Facebook unveiled plans to provide developers with the tools that would enable them to build their own AR effects for the Facebook Appâs camera. The plan is to use these tools to display information overlay over real-world objects (i.e. the menu at a restaurant), or to create fun and creative overlays, like artwork that appears on blank walls, or virtual furniture that can be moved about the real-world apartment.
Zuckerberg wants Facebook to be the first one to provide the hardware, or at least to own the leading platform for the software side of the AR technology. Heâs not alone in these ambitions; the same attitude has been echoed by Tim Cook and other tech executives.
These glasses would be slick, lightweight head-mounted displays. How would we control them? By tapping them or twirling awkward sliders and pressing the small buttons? Facebookâs solution is to develop brain sensors that will enable you to use the device with the power of your thoughts.
As for the audio features, no headphones will be necessary. You will be able to hear sounds simply by wearing the glasses. You see, Facebook is also developing a skin-hearing method. The way I see it, a device that has such an intuitive control scheme and an unobtrusive, familiar ergonomics has a chance to become seamlessly embedded into everyday reality of an average user.
Although consumer adoption (and production) of these devices seems to be decades away, it is still causing changes and commotions today within industry giants like Microsoft
Â and Facebook, all of which vie for control of the technology that is set not only to dethrone the smartphone, but also to forever change the way we experience digital media and reality itself. The future looks exciting indeed!