Some people don’t like the iPhone
Thomas Reardon is soft spoken. Even with a microphone completely pressed against his mouth, people in the audience ask him to speak up. In fairness to him, it’s a big room and the acoustics aren’t that great.
That doesn’t mean he’s boring
Reardon is the CEO of a company called CTRL-Labs, which is developing devices to connect to the brain. Reardon doesn’t like the way humans interact with technology and calls the iPhone a "Trump-level disaster" that has become an instrument of "human enslavement." He adds the Apple Watch is even worse.
CTRL-Labs is developing a non-invasive device that uses signals from your brain to control objects. CTRL-Labs uses deep learning to determine which neurons are firing so it can then send a signal to an interface to do something. It's hard to describe what it does, but if you watch videos, it looks like science fiction.
Two weeks Reardon spoke
Facebook announced it was acquiring CTRL-Labs for somewhere between $500 - $1bn. Half a billion dollars is a lot of money to pay for a company that hasn’t shipped a product. But once you start thinking about how this technology aligns with Facebook's future goals, it starts to make sense.
The “post phone” world
Tech companies are starting to think how their products fit in the post phone world. Considering the iPhone is the most successful product of all time, there is some financial incentive to figure it out. From what has been shown so far, the post phone world will be powered by machine learning enabled products. This includes gadgets that can do voice recognition, image process and natural language processing.
Over the past two weeks, Amazon and Facebook held events that showcased some of their post phone products. No surprise, AI/ML was everywhere.
Amazon’s strategy used to be cover the world with Alexa devices. Alexa is in your car, all over you home, and even at your hotel. At a recent Alexa event, Amazon expanded its strategy into wearables. The company introduced “Echo Frames”, which are Amazon’s first “smart eyeglasses”, which allow you to take Alexa everywhere you go. The glasses don't have any image recognition capability, but that would truly be science fiction. Amazon even introduced an Alexa enabled ring called “Echo Loop” which is a ring that can provide “snack size” notifications.
Facebook has an even more ambitious strategy. At their most recent Oculus Connect conference, Facebook showed how its AR/VR technology could almost produce an iPhone like environment, but in real life. For example, in one video, it shows notifications popping out of thin air and holograms sitting at the table for dinner.
Real life notifications! And be careful on the stairs...
Behind this technology is an immense amount of AI/ML. In order to have “real life” notifications, Facebook is building multi-layer representations of the world by combining crowdsourced data, maps and collected data from AR glasses. Facebook has a history using deep learning for mapping and developed algorithms to map 300,000 miles of unmapped roads in Thailand. It’s safe to assume their multi-layer mapping will also include AI/ML.
Then there is Apple, which hasn’t officially announced AR glasses, but everyone knows there coming.
Is this a good thing?
The technology behind post phone is cool, but it raises a lot of issues. Privacy is big one. If AI/ML is tracking almost everything we do, we will have no privacy whatsoever. When (noticed how I said when and not if) advertising becomes integrated into the post phone world, how will data sharing work? Second, if people are addicted to their phone now, imagine living in a digital world, where you can’t escape it.
Companies have given us a sneak peak at the future, but a lot of this is many years away. Let’s just hope “pop ups” don’t actually happen in real life.