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Someday You’ll Have No Screens In Your Life

May 25, 2016

by David Baszucki


ROBLOX CEO David Baszucki recently wrote an article that was published in Recode. For a deeper look into the future of entertainment, we thought we should share this article with you in case you missed it. Check it out!

Dozens of everyday office tools have been “absorbed” since the 1970s, including calendars, Rolodexes, dictionaries, maps, books, media players, file cabinets, fax machines and wired phones.

Most legacy office devices are already commonly emulated with a web-connected smartphone or laptop. What’s left in the toolbox of a typical tech worker is a laptop with charger, smartphone, earbuds, wallet or purse and keys.

This disappearing act has been stealthily under way since the advent of the PC. It will soon be possible to walk into a Starbucks without a phone or laptop and browse the web, video chat with friends or edit a spreadsheet.

By the mid 2020s, your wallet, keys and laptop brick will no longer be needed. Keys will be absorbed into smartphones as early as 2017, when Volvo offers vehicles that can opened and started with a phone. This feature should be available in most vehicles by 2025. The laptop-charging brick is quietly being left at home, as the battery life of laptops has increased over the past 15 years. Driven by advances in mobile technology, top laptops are pushing the magic 12-hour battery-life zone.

By the mid 2020s, your wallet, keys and laptop brick will no longer be needed.

And the two main items in our wallets, a driver’s license and credit card, will soon be available on our smartphones. Iowa has piloted a project to offer smartphone driver’s licenses. And VisaMasterCard, Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Google Wallet are engaged in the battle for digital smartphone payments everywhere.

The coming age of smart glasses

In the 2030s, laptops, smartphones and earbuds will coalesce into “smart glasses.” Unlike Google Glass, which was a display peripheral, smart glasses will replace your smartphone. Two major technical breakthroughs will power smart glasses, those being augmented-reality displays and finger tracking. Innovations in miniaturization and battery life will provide hundreds of times the computing power of your current smartphone, and on-board earbuds will be embedded in the temples.

The AR (augmented reality) display in smart glasses will overlay text, images and full 3-D scenes directly on one’s field of view. Anything we can view on a monitor today will be available in 3-D on smart glasses. When sitting in our circa-early-2030s Starbucks, we will bring up a virtual high-resolution monitor, and it will look and seem real. Accelerometers and motion tracking will “lock” our virtual monitor to the table. AR displays will be able to create any virtual work surface we desire. A standard configuration might be a virtual three-monitor display along with graphics tablet on the table.

Microsoft’s HoloLens

Smart glasses will integrate finger tracking, as currently demonstrated by Xbox Kinect and Leap Motion, eliminating the need for a keyboard or mouse. Smart glasses will project a virtual keyboard on any surface. The finger tracking in our smart glasses will then recognize virtual keypresses, most likely with tactile sound feedback. We have already seen a similar migration from tactile mobile keyboards (BlackBerry) to touch screens (iOS and Android).

When the augmented-reality display in smart glasses is coupled with finger tracking and a virtual keyboard, laptops and smartphones will no longer be needed.

No more screens

Some will choose not to wear smart glasses for appearance reasons. Not to worry, because in the late 2040s, smart glasses will be replaced with AR contact lenses. These will be coupled to a small CPU/power chip that can be surgically embedded in the upper arm. Ear buds will be available as permanent embeds as well, making it possible to interact online at any place, any time, with no peripherals.

Google (Magic Leap) and Microsoft (HoloLens) are both making big pushes into AR displays. Their early efforts will be clumsy, somewhat akin to a Compaq computer of the 1980s. But the prize is big. The winner of the AR display wars will ultimately control the future of the screen and usher in a new era where the only screens are virtual.