Henry Ford’s insightful yet grossly overused maxim about faster horses has been rattling around my head as I’ve been doing a spot of research on the future of screens. Prompted in particular by what I see as the largely redundant introduction of foldable screens from both Samsung and Huawei. While many are champing at the bit to gain an extra few inches of screen, I see a parallel with the ill-fated music format, MiniDisc. Sony promised us better quality, no annoying Walkman-esque skipping of tracks and the ability to edit and create playlists in a much more user-friendly way. It did all these things and it did them well but being released to the UK masses in 1999 it had one of the lowest uptakes and shortest lifespans of format history. In 2001 came the iPod and the rest as they say…..
I think of this comparison when it comes to our seeming drive to create new types of screens when all around us exist the technology to cast off the shackles of our 2D environments and immerse ourselves in much more engaging and productive visual formats. Why would we want yet more screen in our pockets when just over the horizon is a much more palatable world, one where the screen itself is about to do battle with a host of challengers and in my opinion, lose?
We’ve talked at length on this blog about both Augumented Reality (AR and Virtual reality (VR but for me, the threat to traditional screens here comes from the burgeoning world of digital transfer of presence or as HoloLens calls it, holoportation. In a world where a set of glasses allows us to digitally inhabit shared spaces with our friends and family, how can video conferencing, facetime and lowly screen interfaces survive? If we’re honest, they won’t and the first horseman of this apocalypse will be Facebook Spaces, and the drive to push our social media interactions into a virtualised world, again devoid of traditional screens.
Through the looking Glass
With a nod to the familiar Heads up Display (HUD) from our collective gaming heritage, AR is not just about catching pesky monsters, it’s a real threat to screens and how we use them to obtain information. Quietly, in the background every day, AR apps are popping up that are mapping the very spaces we live in. From AR gear that maps cities and helps us to build smarter, through to interfaces that will provide the info we now have to google or map to collect, wearable AR will reduce our need to interact with screens at all as a digital overlay on our real world begins to become so intuitive that searching just isn’t necessary.
Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope!
Holograms, right? While still for the most part, a macabre gimmick to raise dead popstars, holograms and empty space projection is actually advancing at a rate of Knots. No longer merely a Jedi communication system, this ability will allow us to have smaller devices that can literally expel screens of varying sizes into the space around us. Why bother stuffing a hefty foldable screen in your pocket when you can project one into the space around you from a much smaller device, or even a smartwatch? Ok we are not quite there yet but it’s on the horizon so food for thought when considering spending £2k or so on a foldy-phone.
OK Google, Kill all Screens!
A much debated, expounded and decried figure from the world of marketing suggests that by 2020, half of all searches will be carried out through a quick query to Google or Alexa. Smart hubs and virtual assistants don’t need a screen to give us information. In every single science fiction archetype, everyone asks the computer and gets a lovely, comprehensive response in a human voice. If we think about it, we are going to look back at the age of typing requests into screens as somewhat dinosaur relic. We’ll be able to ask our assistants wherever we are what we need to know and if the answers aren’t read back to us, they’ll be displayed on our HUD in Virtual or Augmented reality. If we need to see something, video content will be projected from our devices into space around us. Screens are looking more and more like a relic in 2019.