Its been a hectic few years for manufacturers in the bid to win over consumption on their devices. It seems like we see a new device launched every week and sometimes wonder why we are seeing so much activity in this space.
Do they know something I don’t?
The answer is simple — these companies have registered as competitors in a race.
A highly contested scramble for the last centimetre of a users attention, the stakes are high and coming out on top is paramount.
The Race so far.
Lets take a trip down memory lane, Back to when life was easy and a landscape looked a lot less complex.
Stage 1 - Television, Personal Computer and Laptop.
As with any first stage of a race things started off relatively leisurely. The only competitor was the humble Television. Sitting in the corner of a living room it kept a comfortable distance and only talked to us if we let it.
In my case the TV was a faithful servant for our family that delivered so many unforgettable memories like the the America’s cup win for Peter Blake and Team New Zealand and tragedies like princess Diana’s funeral, 9'11 and the our Rugby World Cup loss to South Africa in 1995.
This member of the family was joined by a younger sibling in the 90's—The PC (Personal Computer).
We had another competitor.
In my case the Commodore 64 and in later years the HP Pavilion had entered the race and adorned a desk in the corner of the same room. This device opened up raft of amazing opportunities and looking back on things changed my life.
It was next level cool — it allowed for a much more immersive and personalised experience and meant my brother and I could express ourselves in ways we couldn’t otherwise using paper or words.
After school we would have our design and coding session together then head outside for a few overs of backyard cricket together with friends – Life was balanced.
The turn of the millennium then arrived and I was nearing the end of my school days. I was subtely reminded by my father that I needed to leave school and find something to do with my life. Shit was quickly getting real.
Mucking around on a computer was something that I felt I was good at and I decided to go to university with an aim to get a job doing something with them, but there was a problem:
I couldn’t take my beloved PC with me.
I needed something a little more portable that I could write notes and code in class with (when i turned up) — The laptop was about to enter the race.
The Compaq Presario was carefully selected and it was on that computer that I developed a deeper understanding and love around the possibilities within a digital arena.
I was hooked — often sitting in bed into the night learning about new methods and patterns in order to improve my skill set and craft.
Things were going great. I felt I was becoming very good at combining my graphic design skills with programming to deliver quality work and managed to get a job after university designing and developing the early TVNZ OnDemand platform. A great place for me to apply my knowledge and learn from some of the best technical talent New Zealand had to offer.
I remember back on that project with elements of pride and also realise how easy I had it. There was no concept of testing for responsive as things were built for desktop only at set resolutions. No Xamarin test cloud. Oh how times have changed.
Back to the race… The PC and the laptops had overtaken the poor old Television and were way out in front of the pack.
Stage 2 - Smartphones.
And then Steve Jobs changed everything.
On the 9th of January 2007, Apple released the iPhone.
Cell phones had been around for a while but this piece of kit was unreal. It had a processor that was as powerful as some of the laptops in market and the user experience and capability of the Operating System was something a phone had never seen before.
I was quickly on the iPhone bandwagon and got myself firmly into designing and developing apps using Fireworks (and at a later date Sketch) and XCode.
A number of other manufacturers were quick to catch on and soon we saw a number of smartphones in the market from Samsung, Google, Huawei to name a few. Googles Android platform quickly became the alternate option for an operating system on the phone.
The race leader for consumption had now jumped from my laptop bag straight into my pocket.
The last stage?
Where will race end? In short — I don’t think its going to end anytime soon and scarier still is that we don’t even know where it will end.
Whats looking ominous is the consumption of devices will make the jump from being a device attached to the body of a person to directly impacting human senses.
Its all getting a bit sci-fi.
Controlling the eye.
We are seeing huge movement in the market pushing toward technology that helps augment the vision of a person.
This is going to be a crucial part of the race and it could well be that the stage winner here will be a dominant force in decades to come.
We can see how important this is by amount of investment being poured into companies who specialise in wearables for mixed reality.
It started with Oculus Rift’s purchase by Facebook. They had failed in the smartphone race so the next bet would be creating an experience that can seamlessly integrate social areas of interaction.
Since that acquisition levels have increased dramatically in this space.
Magic leap is another ‘startup’ playing in the mixed reality space. It’s backed by Google and Alibaba that have already raised 2.3 billion dollars of funding.
The way the technology is explained is pretty impressive.
Magic leap superimposes 3D computer-generated imagery over real world objects, by projecting a digital light field into the user’s eye.
The execution of the technology unfortunately has yet to match the hype.
Like the Microsoft Holo-lens the field of view for the user is relatively small and practically it doesn’t feel like the first thing you would grab heading out the door on your weekly shopping run — it still has quite a bit of work to do be able to fit into and mimic a human environment.
Again its early days and with that much funding being thrown at it would expect some big improvements in Mixed Reality in years to come.
They will know that the other juggernauts are also circling this territory and watching closely.
Rumours suggest that Apple will be looking to release a headset that caters for Mixed Reality (MR) and Augmented Reality (AR) in the near future and are biding their time waiting for display and chip technology to mature.
They have already begun to invest heavily in virtual and are very actively building a community to create content within iOS.
Controlling the mind.
The only logical place to go after the eye is directly into the brain itself.
There are futurists who have raised considerable funding here coining the term ‘Human 2.0’ and will be interested to see what direction they go in order to augment a persons mind.
It is predicted that the neuroprosthetics market will be worth 14.5 billion by 2024 with even Elon Musk becoming involved with his venture called Neurolink.
Supposably he is currently developing a technology called Neuro-Lace although this all feels very conceptual.
This technology suggests that some day they will implant tiny brain electrodes inside the brain that may one day upload and download thoughts. This layer of artificial intelligence inside the brain could enable humans to reach higher levels of function and keep up with machines.
Full cyborg mode activated — I for one wont be signing up for that beta testing group anytime soon.