AH Tech Talk: AI And VR To Replace Smartphones?

A lot of ubiquitous technologies have had their obsolescence predicted over the years, from TV to traditional PCs, and now smartphones. Though not the first to take a shot, virtual reality headsets and artificial intelligence seem like the natural choice to replace the smartphone as reigning king of portable connectivity for the masses. Although the revolution is in its infancy, the trappings are already all on the table. We now have smart technology that can talk to us, listen and learn just like a real person. These powerful digital assistants take many forms these days, from software on our phones to the Amazon Echo. According to roughly half of the participants in a survey done by Ericcson, the shift could be complete by 2020.

For starters, digital assistant software, portable to nearly all platforms these days, are becoming beyond ubiquitous. If you have a smartphone, smartwatch, smart TV or recent computer, chances are you've used the virtual assistant function by voice at least once. With advancements in contextual serving-up of information coming nearly every day, it's not hard to imagine a virtual assistant learning your daily routine, interests, income level and who you hang out with on a day to day basis. From there, it's no quantum leap to give you relevant information before you need it, at or close to the time you'd be most interested. For example, Google now can already tell when you're about to leave for work and give you an ETA for your commute and any adjustments you may want to make to your route. By matching up contact and friend list entries with your schedule and location, software could easily figure out who you're with, where you go with them and what you do with them. This could result in a notification that a rock concert is going on in a nearby bar when you hit the town with a friend, for example. The software could also gauge your income level and purchasing habits through your search and buying histories, allowing it to show you things you would normally be interested in buying at a time of the month or year that's financially opportune.

Virtual reality could be a real game changer in the coming years. There are already tons of applications for the emerging tech, so once the required hardware becomes less cumbersome and more connected, it's not a stretch to think that you could easily enter a chat with a friend half a world away by a simple voice command, having the conversation overlaid on everyday life, or take a load off and sit with them in a lifelike three dimensional virtual environment. Things like the unit's battery, the last time you ate and drank, your to-do list and reminders could also scroll on by or stick around like a heads-up-display in a shooting video game. The VR revolution is already beginning to hit the gaming world and some have even expressed a willingness to use VR for online dating. To top it off, the once obscure study of controlling electronics using brainwaves is slowly becoming mainstream, meaning that future VR applications could consist of sitting down and thinking about your avatar's actions to see them unfold. We're likely still a long way off from fully immersive VR tech that can input and output to your brain the same way your body does, but a similar experience with a bit less immersion is already on the horizon.

Some people are already turning to their smartwatches to take smartphones out of the equation, choosing models that can take a SIM card and have an independent cellular connection. That makes it fairly easy to imagine something like an improved, more accessible Google Glass seeing wide adoption and daily use. Many are those who would cling to their precious smartphones, touting their ease of use and wide app ecosystem, but the technology to convince even that crowd seems to be coming sooner than later.

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