In the early nineties AT&T ran a series of ads which ‘predicted’ a future where communication would be wireless, driven by touch screens and voice commands, and available anywhere and everywhere.
Have you ever crossed the country without stopping to ask directions?
The ads, directed by David Fincher (Fight Club) and dubbed by Tom Selleck seem eerily accurate when viewed from our current position—twenty years in the future—and it’s important to note that most of the technologies they ‘predict’ were already around in one form or another, just not in any major commercial applications. Technologies like GPS navigation are ubiquitous now that we carry the hardware in our pockets, but when these ads ran they were big, heavy and really expensive.
Some are hilariously products of their time, I know I’ve never needed nor desired to ‘send a fax from the beach’, or use an ATM rather than a computer to buy concert tickets or renew my driver’s license. But it’s taken a remarkably long time for some of the concepts to become normal in our daily lives.
ever gotten a phone call, on your wrist?
Now, contrast that 20 year prediction with Microsoft’s ‘Future Vision’ series which describes a future where everything is a surface, augmented reality is normal and our daily lives are deeply dependent on impossibly thin tablet-like devices, wearables and use a variety of display technologies like holograms, flexible and large surface displays.
At first, this feels like complete fiction, but when you frame it alongside AT&T’s ads the ideas presented by Microsoft suddenly don’t seem so far-fetched, especially when you consider that again, these technologies already exist in most forms, just not cheaply enough yet. This is why I don’t really understand why so many people bash things like Microsoft’s Hololens.
Yes it’s big, it’s heavy and it’s expensive but it’s also a massive step towards their ’Future Vision’, the idea isn’t to think of HoloLens, Glass or Oculus as final products, they’re a step towards a future where UI can be projected anywhere and the only way we can achieve that with current technology is to strap devices in front our our eyes. We conveniently forget that a lot of people couldn’t understand the need for the iPad when it was announced.
As a UI designer it’s a bit hard to imagine designing for users who are no longer bound by a physical screen, we’ve only recently gotten comfortable designing for a world where the physical size of those screens is variable, now think how much will change when those screens could be anywhere, on any surface and quite possibly in three dimensions instead of two.
Give it another 20 years, can you imagine a world where everything can be a display and you don't have to wear a device to see it?