A Screen-Less Future for Everyone
Just a few decades ago, office tools consisted of a wide variety of objects like Rolodexes, calendars, maps, dictionaries, media players, books, fax machines, file cabinets, wired phones, and the like. While some of these things still exist in their traditional form, a lot of them have also been absorbed since the 1970s.
For instance, a phone nowadays is no longer just a tool you can call people with. You can send messages to people no matter what part of the world they’re in via SMS or chat messaging. You can look up certain dates in the year, record your upcoming activities, and plan your schedules with your phone’s calendar feature. You can store and watch videos and pictures, and you can stream your favorite TV shows and movies. You can keep up with your work through emails and cloud-based storage. When you think about it, a smartphone is so much more than a phone; it’s an actual office. Nowadays, if you were to look into the contents of a tech worker’s bag, you’d find only a few items: a smartphone, a laptop with charger, earbuds, car keys and house keys, and wallet or purse.
It’s the ultimate disappearing act of the century, and it’s stealthily been going on ever since the invention of the personal computer. Considering all the advancements that have been made since then, it wouldn’t be an overestimation to say that in the future, we would be able to walk about anywhere without our phone or laptop and we’d still be able to browse the Internet, engage in a three-way video-call with friends, and even edit a spreadsheet for work.
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As early as the 2020s, we will no longer need our keys, wallets, and laptop chargers when we go out into the world and go about our day. Keys will be absorbed into smartphones, and this technology started as early as 2017 with Volvo’s introduction of sophisticated cars that can be opened and started with just a phone. The makers of these cars can see this technology being widely featured in most vehicles by 2025. Even as of now, more and more people are choosing to leave their laptop chargers at home as most laptops nowadays already boast a battery life that lasts for around 12 hours or more. Our actual wallets will also soon be extinct, and our driver’s licenses and credit cards will soon be accessed via our smartphones. Iowa has headlined a project that aims to offer smartphone driver’s licenses, while companies like Mastercard, Visa, Apple Pay, Google Wallet, and Samsung Pay are lording it out in the digital smartphone payments market.
The Emergence of Smart Glasses
Smart glasses will also make a comeback, but it will no longer be in the form of the weirdly bulky Google Glass, which functioned more as a display peripheral. In the 2030s, smart glasses will being to take the place of smartphones, and there will be two powerful breakthroughs that advance the cause of smart glasses: finger tracking and augmented reality displays. There will be innovations in the fields of battery technology and miniaturization, and this will lead to the creation of a computing power that’s a hundred times more powerful and efficient than your present smartphone. Also, both wired and wireless earbuds will be a thing of the past, as on-board earbuds will already be embedded in the temples.
With smart glasses, people will get to enjoy an augmented reality display that consists of images, text, and even 3D scenes—all in their own field of view. Everything that you can view on a screen you can then access in 3D with your smart glasses. We’d all be sitting in our 2030-era Starbucks, and all of us will be able to bring up a virtual monitor that’s high resolution and that will look as real as the ones we have now. Your monitor also comes with motion tracking and accelerometers, so you can “lock it in” to your table. Also, AR displays will also be able to create the virtual work surface that we’d want. An average setup at that time will feature a virtual three-monitor display complete with a graphics tablet.
Finger tracking is also another technology that will be absorbed into smart glasses, and this was recently demonstrated by the companies Leap Motion and Xbox Kinect, which then does away with the need for a mouse or a keyboard. The smart glasses will produce a virtual keyboard on any flat surface, and all we’d need to do is to make virtual key presses and the finger tracking feature will recognize those presses and provide accompanying tactile sound feedback. With augmented reality display, finger tracking, and a virtual keyboard, soon we will no longer see any need for our old smartphones and laptops.
No More Screens
For aesthetic or practical reasons, some people might not want to wear the glasses. There’s no need to worry, because in the 2040s, augmented reality contact lenses will soon take the place of the smart glasses. These contact lenses will then be connected to a minute CPU/power chip that can be embedded into your arm. Earbuds will also become permanent embeds too. All this technology makes it perfectly possible to interact online without the need for peripherals, no matter where you are and no matter what time of day it is.
Microsoft (HoloLens) and Google (Magic Leap) are both making great advancements in the field of augmented reality display. Of course, their first attempts will be clumsy, but if they persevere and continue their efforts, one or both of them will be able to dictate the future of the screen and introduce an age where all the screens we see are virtual.