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

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.

Published by

Tim Bajarin

Tim Bajarin is the President of Creative Strategies, Inc. He is recognized as one of the leading industry consultants, analysts and futurists covering the field of personal computers and consumer technology. Mr. Bajarin has been with Creative Strategies since 1981 and has served as a consultant to most of the leading hardware and software vendors in the industry including IBM, Apple, Xerox, Compaq, Dell, AT&T, Microsoft, Polaroid, Lotus, Epson, Toshiba and numerous others.

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

  1. “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.”

    WHich we will all enjoy using when we aren’t busy puking from the nausea caused by experiencing VR. Yeah right.

    Sigh. I am really getting tired of reading all this boosterism for VR. No matter how often you say that it’s going to happen, 90% of the world is not going to start strapping a video screen to their head in order to use their computer.

    Nor is the all new, all shiny voice activated assistant going to utterly transform computing. People aren’t going to start talking at their phones all the time when it’s just as easy and far more private, more precise, and more reliable to tap or type. And the idea that all those office workers are going to start chattering away at their desktops in their cubicles is laughable.

    1. In the early ’90s, when programs that could initiate tasks by voice such as Dragon and IBM’s ViaVoice first came around, they were going to change the world. Impressive as they were, they didn’t.

      I think it was Dvorak, that said something to the effect “What if a person walks into a crowded cubicle laden room and shouts out “Format C:”? ”
      To your point, touch screens have essentially, and paradoxically, removed all tactile sensation. Compared to hardware keyboards, the are much less natural. There’s no texture to them. But they have a major upside, they give you a much bigger screen at a given device size. They have caught on for that reason.

      1. Voice input would have us living in a world of incessant mumbling. There are a lot of things that the tech industry comes up with that if we think about it some more are impractical and socially unacceptable.

    2. I agree about VR, especially as it is now and will likely be for the next 10-15 years. However, as the first step toward Star Trek like holodeck, this my be a necessary first step, no matter how restrictive the experience.

      Joe

  2. From the Mel’s Brooks movie “History of the world”.

    Setting: an Employment Insurance window in an ancient Rome.

    Clerk: What is your occupation?
    Mel Brooks: I am a stage performer.
    Clerk: What do you do?
    Mel Brooks: I bullshit all day long.
    Clerk: Did you bullshit last week?
    Mel Brooks: No, I did not bullshit last week.
    Clerk: Did you try to bullshit last week?
    Mel Brooks: Yes! I did try to bullshit last week.

    As a good stage performer or a salesman (and I believe this kind of personality Amazon may aime for with Alexa/Echo) an intelligent assistant need to be able to tell the story to sell a product (including an all important emotional component). Just answering queries will be too bland. What is done to teach Alexa this skill?

  3. On a bit of a side note, I’m curious Tim why you call Amazon’s Echo “popular”?

    I believe Amazon has sold less than 2 million of the units in the last 12 months compared to for instance the 12 million Apple Watches or the well over a quarter of a Billion (270m) iOS devices sold in that time.

    In those terms the Echo sounds like a bit of a market failure really?

  4. What I keep bumping up against is how difficult using IT in particular and tech in general is. We had our clicks in a nice row with CUA/Windows, then we broke that nice structure+discoverability with touch (even going back to contaminate WIMP whoever came up with Material should be made to do tech support+training)… I shudder to think the mess even more freeform voice and gestures will lead to. I sure hope our gizmos quickly get to understand swear words and rude gestures, because my iBrother’s iMac and voice-assist car with a crummy manual deserve no better. I want a mouse to work the second I plug it in, an error message when file copy fails, and a button to link up bluetooth. Then you can get fancy.

  5. I’m not one of those people who are excited about AI. Most people are by nature lazy. It’s not a character flaw, it’s evolution. For hundreds of thousands of years, humans lived in a feast-or-famine environment that rewarded those who are able to get the most done at the least expenditure of energy.

    Suddenly, in the last few hundred years we had machines and automation that did the hard manual work for us. Most of us got fat.

    It’s nice to think that AI would allow us to leave the mundane mental tasks to machines and free us to pursue more edifying intellectual pursuits. I fear that if we get machines that will think for us, most of us will choose to vegetate and become dumb.

    Fat and dumb. I don’t think that’s something our species should aspire towards.

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