So recently it’s all been about iWatches and how Apple is totally making one and it will change everything and how it will be shit and change nothing and how Apple is doomed because it won’t sell two iWatches for every man woman and child on the Earth and the iWatch is totally expected and they can’t innovate any more and blah blah blah. And all this vapid futurewang got me thinking: where do I want technology to go in the next few years? So come with me now as I myself play… Futurewang!
Predicting the Predictable
So, I carry my phone in my pocket for most of the time. That means that of course I want an iWatch, a device on my wrist that can give me most if not all of the notifications that get sent through to my phone and let me decide what to do about them as well as give me information about my own body and control some aspects of the phone itself such as audio and your voice command system of choice. As far as doable wearable computing goes it’s the most unobtrusive and socially acceptable (I’m looking at you, Google Glass.) It can vibrate if I tell it not to make a noise and I’ll actually feel it. It can show me my text messages and emails and let me know if there’s something else on my phone that I might be interested in so I can decide whether to get it out of my pocket or not. It can even act as a simplified interface for your audio player of choice as well as having an API so developers can make it do things hitherto undreamed-of. Lovely, like the sound of one, sign me up.
But an iWatch is obviously going to happen in the relatively short term. Aside from battery issues, the concept doesn’t really require anything monumental in terms of development – minaturisation, high-resolution screen technology, low-power processors and Low Energy Bluetooth all exist today and smooshing them together into an attractive and reasonably-sized package that lasts a good while on a single charge and has an awesome developer back-end is a project well-suited to Apple and its historic strengths. Hell, they could have shoehorned Bluetooth LE into the iPod Nano of two years ago and pretty much called the job a good’un.
But what about further down the line? What do I want my life to be like in ten years?
You Rang, Sir?
The answer to that question is simple. I want Iron Man’s J.A.R.V.I.S. software interface. JARVIS (I’m buggered if I’m typing those periods out every time) is what I call a voice-of-God interface, a disembodied artificial intelligence that speaks from above, similar to the ship computer from Star Trek but with Paul Bettany instead of the late, great Majel Barrett-Roddenberry. Differing from the ship computer however, JARVIS is pro-active and personality-driven, a true personal assistant.
I want a personality to interact with. I want software that I don’t think of as software, something that can predict my needs and carry out my requests. I want JARVIS to be able to interface with all the electrical equipment in my house to help me with tasks like following recipes, retrieving information and synthesising futuristic self-powered body armour with which I can save the world. (OK, that last one might be a bit of a stretch.) I want JARVIS to be able to screen and answer my voice calls, take messages and sort and file my email. I tweeted about some über-cool wifi LED controllable lightbulbs a while back; stick some rudimentary motion tracking sensors in them and lo, JARVIS can know where I am in the house, switching lights on as and when I move around.
When I leave the house I want JARVIS to go with me in a device I carry in my pocket, with an earpiece to listen to him talk and a watch to issue instructions in button form (I hate talking out loud in public which is why you’ll almost never see me answer my phone if I’m out and about). But I want him in the house too, watching over things, switching the oven on when I’m the right distance away from home, making sure the temperature of the house will be right for when I get there, making sure nothing is running that doesn’t need to run.
The hardware for all of this pretty much exists today, or at least not far off becoming reality. The software is the thing. Siri and Google Now are both massively important to this because they are for the first time getting literally millions of different voice samples for the same commands that the server-based recognition software can learn from. And, as clever as they both are now, they are just the start of the voice-of-God AI revolution. Think of what computer interfaces were like ten years ago. Think of what they’re like now. Think of what voice recognition interfaces are like now. Think of what voice recognition interfaces could be like in ten years…
What would you like to see from technology a decade hence? What’s your vision of the future? Do let me know below! Let’s futurewang together!