[MEME] The Screenless Future?
Recently, I came across a new phrase - new to me, at least. Are we headed for a future when screens, keyboards and mice are obsolete? We've already traveled quite far down a road where voice computing is becoming commonplace. Here's what you need to know...
Are Screens and Keyboards Obsolete?
Captain Kirk talked to his computer in many Star Trek episodes, and it answered him by talking back. No screen was needed. Once again, life is imitating art. Devices such as the Amazon Echo, Google Home, and your smartphone can now do much the same, and perhaps even better.
Wired magazine argues that “The Amazon Echo Is Winning the Race to a Screenless Future”. The author, Davey Alba, invokes cloud computing, artifiicial intelligence, machine learning, and other mysterious geekery. But his bottom line is: people like talking with their computers more than reading or writing with them.
It turns out that the “screenless future” is also a keyboard-less future, and mice are extinct, too. The featureless, Platonic cylinder of Amazon’s Echo, powered by cloud-borne Alexa software, is one manifestation of this future. But there are many others, and many dramatic changes in the offing for consumers.
I will be first to admit that I like talking with my smartphone and being understood by it. Voice recognition has made huge leaps in the past few years. Only 5 years ago, the only game in town for desktop PCs was Dragon Naturally Speaking from Nuance. It was difficult to use, you had to train it to recognize your voice, and it didn't work with all your apps. Now I talk to my phone all the time.
It's so much easier to dictate a text message or email on my phone than by typing on a virtual keyboard. Accuracy is shockingly good, even in fairly noisy environments. I can tell my phone to "take a memo" or "set an alarm" even when it's in my pocket. Who needs screens or keypads when Siri and Google Now are compliant, voice-activated servants?
The downside is that I sometimes appear to be barking mad. “Look, there’s another poor guy talking to himself!” The visual cues that I am “on the phone” are often completely eliminated, resulting in awkward interruptions and strange looks. Captain Kirk never had any such misgivings about conversing with his computer.
The Internet of Things is Enabling a Screenless Future
More than two-thirds of Americans own smartphones, according industry observers. Many of them use their phones much like I do, in hands-free natural conversations. The “screenless future” is made possible by the practice that consumers are getting on their phones. But it includes far more than phones, indeed far more than discretely identifiable objects.
The “Internet of Things,” or IoT, is most definitely coming; some would argue that it’s already here in force. (See my related article The Internet of Insecure Things.) Like an iceberg, only a small fraction of the IoT is easily seen. So-called “embedded systems” are hidden inside of mundane objects like refrigerators and cars. Many more embedded systems are in objects that ordinary citizens rarely see, like electrical utility stations, traffic control systems, and the omnipresent surveillance camera networks.
A refrigerator with a touchscreen is rather awkward and unsightly. Voice interaction is the obvious ideal, like the “replicator” in the Starship Enterprise’s galley. “Earl Grey, hot,” anyone? Google already has prototype driverless cars that lack a steering wheel and pedals, and whose screens are mainly for entertainment rather than guidance and control. And, of course, there’s Amazon Echo and upcoming attempts to catch up with it, such as Google Home.
“Wearable tech” is another fertile field for “screenlessness.” My shirts should just change color when I discreetly mutter, “Change color to blue,” and they should know my favorite shade of blue. My phone should not be in my pocket; instead, perhaps my pocket should be my phone!
I am calling the “screenless future” a meme because the concept is a powerful one that is likely to reshape our society. It is an idea which captures the imaginations of consumers while inspiring artists, industrial designers, and makers of all kinds. It’s not the debased definition of “meme” that is just a pun in the form of a GIF. This meme matters.
Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 25 Jul 2016
|For Fun: Buy Bob a Snickers.|
Tricks You Didn’t Know Google Chrome Can Do
The Top Twenty
Geekly Update - 27 July 2016
There's more reader feedback... See all 28 comments for this article.
Post your Comments, Questions or Suggestions
Free Tech Support -- Ask Bob Rankin
Subscribe to AskBobRankin Updates: Free Newsletter
Copyright © 2005
- Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved
Article information: AskBobRankin -- [MEME] The Screenless Future? (Posted: 25 Jul 2016)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved