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I’ll pose a deliberately provocative question: What if smartphones were so successful and useful that they’re stifling innovation?
Technologists are now envisioning what could be the next big thing. But there may never be anything else quite like the smartphone, the first and perhaps last mass-market, and the globally transformative computer.
I might look like a 19th-century futurist who couldn’t imagine that horses would ever be replaced by cars. But let me make the case that the smartphone phenomenon may never be repeated.
First, as people in tech envision the future, they implicitly bet that smartphones will be replaced as the center of our digital lives by less obvious things – no It’s not the slate that pulls us out of our world, but the technologies that are almost indistinguishable from the air we breathe.
Virtual reality glasses are a cumbersome thing these days, but the bet is that technology like VR or computers that can “learn” like humans will eventually blur the lines between online and real, between people. and computers, to the point of being wiped out. That is the vision behind the “metaverse,” a broad vision that virtual human interactions will be as complex as the real thing.
Perhaps you’re thinking that more modern and immersive technologies sound appealing, or maybe they’re like the woo-woo dreams of koalas. (Or maybe both.) Either way, technologists have to prove to us that the future they imagine is more engaging and useful than the digital lives we already have thanks to the Magical supercomputer in our pocket.
The challenge with any new technology is that smartphones have been so successful that it’s hard to envision alternatives. During a sales boom that lasted about a decade, these devices morphed from a novelty for wealthy nerds to the only computer billions of people around the world have ever owned. Smartphones have been so successful that we don’t need to pay much attention to them. (Yes, that includes progressively updated iPhone models that Apple said on Tuesday.)
The appeal of these devices in our lives and in the imaginations of technologists is so strong that any new technology today must exist almost in opposition to smartphones.
When my colleague Mike Isaac tried out Facebook’s new glasses that can take pictures with a tap of the temple, a company executive told him, “It doesn’t get better than having to pick up the phone. come out and hold it in front of you every time you want to capture a moment?”
I understand the moderator’s point of view. It’s true that devices like the Apple Watch, Facebook glasses, and Snap’s Spectacles glasses are very clever at making smartphone features less annoying. Companies including Facebook, Snap and Apple are also working on eyeglasses that – like the failed Google Glass – aim to combine digital information like maps with what we see around us. .
Commentary also suggests that any new consumer technology will have to answer the inevitable questions: Why should I buy another device to take photos, glance at cycling directions, or play music when I’m on the go? I can do most of it with the smartphone already in my pocket? Do I need to live in the metaverse when I have the same experience on my phone’s rectangular screen?
Smartphones are unlikely to become a reality of technology, and I’m curious to see the evolution of technologies that want to move away from them. But at least for now, and possibly forever, most of the technology for our daily lives is more a complement to our phones than a substitute. These tiny computers can be so handy that there will never be a post-smartphone revolution.
Before we go…
Should you buy a new phone now? In a recent column, my colleague Brian X. Chen answered the question of whether you’re thinking of swapping out your smartphone for a new model: You can repair these What makes your phone more annoying than replacing it? Can you still get software updates with the existing model? How will a new phone change your life?
We want flying cars, and we’ve got an $850 robot vacuum that can drive around doo dogs: To create the newest Roomba, the company “built more than 100 physical models of pet poop and trained algorithms on over a hundred thousand images to help the device avoid the crap,” The Washington said. Post wrote. Also, the robots collect a lot of data from inside your home. (Roomba is still available confused by the black striped rug, in spite of.)
“It’s an amazingly dark show, and that’s the purpose.” This is a thought-provoking essay about a new streaming video series centered on a famous family on TikTok that humanizes those looking to become social media celebrities.
Check out these video clips from a flock of captive owls in Indiana. Baby owls learning to fly are really the cutest things.
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