Are We about to Enter a New “Golden Era” in Technology?

on June 29, 2016

At the recent Code Conference, Jeff Bezos made a rather provocative statement when he said that when we talk about technology we are on “the edge of a golden era”.

When it comes to Artificial Intelligence, Bezos says, “It’s probably hard to overstate how big of an impact it’s going to have on society over the next 20 years.” Bezos says Amazon has 1,000 people working on its Alexa platform, which powers the company’s popular voice-controlled Echo device.

Of course, Bezos is not alone with this line of thinking about Artificial Intelligence and its impact. Apple, Microsoft, and Google are spending billions of dollars in research to create next generations of digital personal assistants and AI bots that will help automate a whole range of queries, tasks, and jobs. We have been researching AI as it relates to personal assistants since 2011 and, the more we dig into AI, machine learning, and cognitive analysis, the more we agree with Bezos that AI, and especially voice-based assistants and bots, will have a dramatic impact on the man-machine interface and be a part of ushering in a golden era of technology.

However, I think when we look at a new era in technology we should probably extend this to not only AI, speech, and the role machine learning will play, but also in the way we use technology to see the world around us in new ways as well as the role enhanced sound and audio will impact this new era of tech.

Since the beginning of computing, our interface with machines has been basically via text, keyboard inputs and 2D flat screens. For 50+ years, this man-machine interface has served us well. But the next generation of CPUs, GPUs, storage, mobile screens, optics, and wireless technologies are going to make the man-machine interface richer and more immersive.

The introduction of AR and VR will deliver the next major leap in this journey. With AR, we virtually see content and related data as we view it through various devices. With VR, we experience a form of teleportation that puts us at the center of the action. The computing experience becomes more visual and rich as these technologies create new virtual worlds for us to see, work, and play in and delivers the kind of immersive technology experiences that go way beyond what we have had for the last 50 years.

AI-based voice assistants and bots enhance the AR and VR experiences since so many of the apps tied to these visual environments will demand hands-free operations. However, it is the visual experiences that AR and VR deliver to users that will be a big part of ushering in a new age in technology that breaks away from the past and delivers a much richer, visually stunning approach to interacting with technology at many levels.

Audio and sound will also be important in the new golden era of computing. If you have used Oculist Rift, the HTC VIV or the Sony Playstation VR headsets, you know a big part of the experience, especially in gaming and entertainment, includes 3D and surround sound audio. When you put on a high quality headset and play a VR game or watch a VR-based movie or video, high quality sound makes the experience come alive. High quality audio is becoming just as important to those who listen to music, podcasts and streaming media as all of these applications gain from enhanced audio.

Although Bezos mainly pointed out AI as a key to his “Golden Era” thinking, it is clear AR, VR and 3D audio will also be critical components of delivering a radical new way for us to interact with technology in the future. For those of us who have been in this industry for decades, a richer computing experience will be welcome.

But, as I have pondered the idea of a new golden era of computing and thought about the pace technology advances, one can only wonder what the world of technology will look like 50 years from now.

I can see how this new era will be more visual with more intelligent interfaces but can’t even imagine what the computing and tech environment will be like in another 50 years. The only thing that is assured is technology does not stand still and the computing experience of tomorrow will be one that will not be recognizable today.