The Fourth Transformation: Augmented Reality & Artificial Intelligence

In the beginning, there were mainframe computers and punch cards. Since then, we’ve seen three transformations. The latest, augmented reality plus artificial intelligence, will change more than the previous three combined.

At least, that’s what tech evangelist Robert Scoble and author Shel Israel say in their new book: The Fourth Transformation: How Augmented Reality & Artificial Intelligence Will Change Everything.

The first three transformations

First was text and MS-DOS. That may not seem revolutionary today, but in a pre-1970s era of punchcards, it was.

Then the graphical user interface opened up computing to a wider group of people in the 1980s by providing greater usability.

Then, in the early 2000s, Scoble and Israel argue, we began the transition to touch on small devices.

Each transformation opened up new opportunities, new capabilities, and created new companies and sources of wealth. Each transformation also killed technologies, deprecated old ways of doing things, and destroyed companies.

The next transformation will do exactly the same thing.

The fourth transformation: from handsets to headsets

The fourth transformation, Scoble and Israel say, will “will move technology from what we carry to what we wear.” The user interface will change from a “screen you tap to computer-generated images that you actually touch and feel.”

This is, of course, virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality.

Some of the technologies driving these change are currently complex and expensive, costing the better part of a thousand dollars and requiring expensive hardware to run and control them. The Oculus Rift, Playstation VR, and HTC Vive are examples of head-mounted display virtual reality products that are expensive, wired, and dependent on external processing from PCs or gaming machines.

There are also cheaper technologies using ubiquitous smartphones as their screens and sensors, such as Samsung’s Gear and Google’s DayDream.

All of them, however, require bulky head-mounted hardware that impedes your view of the non-virtual world.

The future is something we see hints of with Snapchat’s Spectacles.

Instead of bulk and separation, Israel and Scoble say, we’ll have miniaturized technologies that will fit in ordinary-looking eyeglasses that will embed all the power of a Rift or a Microsoft Hololens, but none of the heft. And that will make all the difference.

 “Mixed-reality glasses will control self-driving cars, drones, robots, and the Internet of things (IoT), but they will do a lot more than just that: they will blur the lines between that which is real and that which is a computer-generated illusion,” say Scoble and Israel. “Now, instead of sitting and passively watching stuff on screens, we will become immersed and surrounded, wandering freely in and around it.”

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