Will the Age of Smartphones Be Over Soon?

Emerging technologies such as virtual assistants could replace the devices in our pockets

20 April 2017

The days of people checking their smartphone might come to an end with the advent of smartglasses and virtual assistants, like the Amazon Echo and Google Home. Augmented-reality and voice-recognition programs allow us to immerse ourselves in the digital world in a more natural way, without having to pull out our phone every time we want to look up something. Moreover, the experience will be enhanced. We’ll get our information in 3-D, superimposed right in front of us as we walk down the street, by wearing smartglasses. We’ll watch a movie play all around us instead of on a small flat screen.

Although we have become dependent on our phones, they certainly have drawbacks, and we are likely to eventually give them up as technology becomes immersed in our daily lives. Many people don’t want to carry their phone all the time, and phones constantly have to be charged. There’s also lag time to type keywords to find information, and the user has to know exactly what to search for to get the answer he needs. Virtual assistants and similar devices rely on artificial intelligence to not only quickly respond to requests, but anticipate what users might need ahead of time. This technology will only improve over time.

Amazon’s Echo, for example, is similar to Apple’s Siri, with the addition of a host of clever features. For one, it can control smart devices in the home simply by having the user tell it what to do by saying its wake word, Alexa. “Alexa, dim the lights to 30 percent.” Or, “Alexa, order more cat food.” And you can verbally ask it to find information instead of typing in your search.

And while Google’s smartglasses haven’t taken off yet, they might just be ahead of their time. At some point, the pros of smartglasses will outweigh the cons. As people walk around a city, they will be able to easily find a location by following arrows superimposed on the sidewalk in front of them. They’ll also receive fun tidbits about buildings and other landmarks they pass. Eventually, once people get used to this experience, they will have a hard time living without the glasses.

These technologies will continue to advance as developers work to create smart devices that will become part of our everyday lives. Once virtual assistants and smartglasses become more mainstream, socially accepted, and affordable, it’s only a matter of time before smartphones become antiquated.

IEEE Senior Member Qusi Alqarqaz is an electrical engineer with more than 27 years of experience in the power industry. He writes about technology, works as a consultant, and mentors students. He is a contributor to The Institute as well as the The Analog, a newsletter for the IEEE Central Texas Section. He previously worked in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

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