Almost all modern consumer electronics is comprised of two parts: hardware and software. We’ve always had hardware, but software is something that has exploded only in the last few decades. And as software has exploded, it has proceeded many of the roles that hardware used to handle.
Of course, hardware is needed for software, what good is software without any way of seeing it or more importantly writing it? But eventually, I see hardware as becoming so subtle that it ceases to be important to the user. The software will be all we interact with, but even that will be ethereal. The benefit of this will be that we will no longer be using ‘devices’, ‘devices’ will just do things for us.
Currently, if we need to find something out, we go through this process:
- How will I find this? A phone call? Email? Message? Google search?
- Carry that action out and hopefully it works out
- If it doesn’t, rinse and repeat
In the future, this process could be as simple as, asking a question. Instantaneously, the computer analyses your questions and carries out these steps for you. For lack of a better word, it’s ‘frictionless’. This kind of technology may be a few decades in the pipeline, but in the near future, many of the barriers we currently face will be removed through two simultaneous processes: the prevalence of software and the dissipation of hardware.
An example of this through the prevalence of software, is Apple’s handoff feature, which allows a user to switch from their Mac to their iPhone/iPad (or vice versa) without even thinking about it. This might not seem like an obvious example of the dissipation of hardware, but by allowing this coherent transfer between devices, the device becomes less important.
In terms of hardware, the almost complete disappearance of bezels on the Xiaomi Mix removes much of the mental barrier when using a phone. It makes watching movies and playing games more immersive, but more importantly you forget that you’re holding a phone.
Virtual and augmented reality will only accelerate this inevitable seamless future, in which technology, does things for you, rather than you doing things with technology. On the other hand, it could be argued that it is us doing things for the technology. If you thought people being slaves to their smartphone screens was bad, imagine people with their VR headsets, not even seeing the real world they live in.
Ultimately, we will embrace the new technology as is always the case. However, what will decide whether its impact is positive or not, is how we choose to use it. It has the power to connect us with more people in a more profound way, as did Facebook when it first arrived. It’s all a matter of how people adopt and use the technology.