Brandon Donnelly: Mobile phones are the past, augmented reality is the future

Brandon Donnelly: Mobile phones are the past, augmented reality is the future
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The next innovation will use computer generated information to transform how we see reality. It is upon us and will reshape our social and economic foundations, writes Brandon Donnelly

YOUR mobile phone and its manufacturer are already obsolete. The manufacturer just doesn’t know it yet.

Augmented reality (AR) is the next innovation that will create bespoke experiences for users by transforming the world in personalised ways.

Something previously considered science fiction will soon be real and we are unprepared for the ramifications.

Imagine that by wearing a pair of glasses, you get a constant feed of information about the world around you.

Google Glass might not have taken off, but Apple, Samsung, and Huawei all have plans to release smart AR glasses in 2022-23.

AR glasses will allow us to see the world in a customisable manner, and will provide inexhaustible opportunities to change the way we do just about everything.

Companies will have to rethink how they introduce content to you, and this will be a great time of market innovation and disruption.

By leveraging 5G and cloud technologies, instantaneous computing power will be available for smart glasses that will let you watch television, play games, browse the internet, make calls, become your personal computer, and record video (hello, Snapchat Glasses).

With bone-conductive speakers, a businesswoman could just as easily translate a conversation as listen to her favourite music. Annoyingly, imagine a man driving home, looking at a billboard, only to see an overlay of a customised advertisement, because a host of data is being used to find relevant ways to reach him.

The pressure to stay connected will be huge, with an impact more far-reaching than the Apple Watch.

Augmented reality is going to be terrifyingly beautiful, capable of great feats of delight and annoyance, in equal measure.

But we are unable to truly appreciate the repercussions of toppling the dominant technology designs of the last 100 years and how this will reshape our social, political, and economic foundations. More than at any point in the history of personal computing devices, programmers will be needed to create novel experiences, but to also keep this vast trove of personal data protected. While we’re just starting to understand the social consequences of neurological remapping from smartphone use, a new generation will be growing up in a world of pseudo-reality.

So much of the technology we use daily has hit a zenith of innovation. Televisions are moving from 4k to 8k, phones are coming out with foldable screens, games and movies are using more detailed CGI, and technology is largely moving to the cloud and being accessed through data.

But like automakers who make a slight design upgrade to a body style, drastic innovation has yet to take place appreciably. Augmented reality threatens to displace all of these businesses by having a single device replace every technology product in your household.

A pair of AR glasses will never replace the quality of a dedicated solution. But the mass growth of mobile phones that have cameras has led to the rapid decline of digital cameras, proving that a good-enough, portable product will create massive market disruption.

We are reaching an exciting point of convergence in technology. Consolidation of disparate offerings is going to reduce consumer spend. The willingness to spend on a new technology is going to be a key indicator that is tracked closely by larger market players.

The initial adoption of augmented reality glasses will first be accompanied by your smartphone for practical reasons of compute, battery, and connectivity limitations, but not after the hand-off and transition period.

Human adaptability and the novelty of the new product will lead to widescale adoption. The new Tesla Cybertruck, though it might polarise, proves that difference drives opportunity.

Destructive innovation is the theory that to stay relevant, you have to destroy the institutional rules of a concept, the underlying technology or model, and reinvent from the ground up.

As Sanjay Sarma, vice-president for open learning at MIT, concluded, “Businesses that don’t continuously introspect their raison d’etre may be living on borrowed time.”

We need not look further than the Celtic Tiger to know that if companies don’t embrace, adapt, and change, they will be part of the next bubble.

In the world of trillion-dollar tech companies, the stakes have never been higher for companies to reinvent themselves, much like Microsoft has done in recent years.

Innovation is a fear that pulses through the veins of large organisations, is embraced by startups, and is driven by the insatiable appetites of consumers. The key is that when this next wave comes, organisations and governments must be prepared to rapidly adapt to the changes within the market and respond to the needs that have come to bear.

We are reaching an end to stagnation and entering into a new world of creative innovation and design. The very way we interact with, and view, the world will forever be changed. Our challenge will be to innovate and create in this new space. Are you ready?

Brandon Donnelly is CTO at SteriTrack and will be a speaker at the Beyond IoT conference, which runs at Cork Institute of Technology on January 20 and 21.

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