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The 90s and 00s were rife with new, exciting inventions. Some that seemed to build on a similar idea while moving a great deal forward.
The Walkman -> CD player -> MP3 player
The PC -> Laptop -> Smartphones (all getting exponentially more powerful as well)
On the software side we had a similar jump with Wikipedia and Google Maps both replacing klutzier hardware equivalents.
The 90s and 00s were a great time to grow up, thanks to the pace of technological delivery. And then in the 10s, it just kinda… stopped?! After the technological rainforest that was the 90s and 00s, the 10s was pretty much a barren wasteland. Sure, video streaming and information sharing progressed. Connectivity increased, with WhatsApp and free calling. But, nothing really exciting stood out (please message me if I’ve missed something - I’m sure I likely have).
Thankfully, the 20s seem to have started on a good note, with not just one, but two (TWO!) pieces of technology that I’ll get into right now.
The first is artificial intelligence (AI), or more specifically, generative AI (or large language models). As soon as I used the first edition of chat GPT I could feel I was using something revolutionary. And though a year has passed, I’m still bullish! Even now, there is room for growth - specifically by “unlocking” the shitty voice assistants (or “voice alarm clocks”) of the 10s. Frankly, I’m a little surprised by the lack of progress there, but it looks like most are looking for the easiest way forward, which is to create yet another unnecessary GPT clone. Nevertheless, I’m optimistic with the increases in productivity it can provide. Simply put, GenAI has magically given everyone a personal assistant/coach for free (and one you can talk to by voice soon enough I’d hope).
(Video Music Awards) Reality
The second is virtual/mixed/augmented reality (VR/MR/AR). While working at Meta, I thought, “Apple is going to come out with a clean headset, with limited but polished functionality, and all the Apple fanboys/customers are going to love it and buy it”. This was while Meta was copping some bad PR publicly (I realize that doesn’t narrow the time frame at all). Well, the Apple Vision Pro was announced a few months ago, at an Apple-certified price of over 3000$ (or is it 4000? Does it even matter?) and the initial response was… not as positive as I expected it to be. Shock. Well, market’s hard to predict.
Forward to February 2024, and now the headset has been released and reviews have started coming in. YouTube creators like Marquess Brownlee, Casey Neistat, Cleo Abram all took it out for a spin, and the response has been primarily positive! Shock. What’s interesting is while the Quest was roundly mocked, the Apple headset is getting a pass for the very same things. While the Metaverse was a joke no one would want to be in, the Vision Pro is now allowing people to see what the future may hold. You’d look like a clown wearing the Quest in public, but there are so many videos out there of people wearing the Vision Pro in public.
And that’s exactly how I’d have seen this going two years ago. Apple releases a pricey, polished product which paints a picture pretty enough for people to buy in to their vision (pun intended). First impressions, am I right?
Update: Since I posted this, Sam Altman has tweeted about the Vision Pro, Marques Brownlee has made multiple videos about it, and Zuck has made a video defending the Quest and attacking the Vision Pro
What does the future hold?
I hope more new, exciting tech.
If we’re talking about Apple/Meta, I’m sure that Meta hopes that in the worst case they can play the Android to Apple’s iPhone in this space (best case is they are the only ones on the market, of course). It’ll be interesting to see how the conversations around Apple’s % cut for apps will shake out - Netflix/Spotify/YouTube have not made apps for the Vision Pro yet, but who will flinch first?
If we’re talking about VR+ and if I were a betting man, I’d bet it will replace video calls. Some sports/exercise as well likely, and it can have the potential to further increase the spread of information. The internet (HTML + WWW), and then YouTube have done this progressively in the last two decades by letting you learn by reading and learn by seeing. VR+ can let you learn by doing. There are already apps out there for learning the piano, and demos out there for the guitar. Could this allow you to train/measure yourself against “past” you (real-life ghost replays)?
It may even replace social hangouts. Think game nights. Why drive 60 minutes to your friend’s place when you can get together right then & there (wherever there may be), have a board set up and the cards all shuffled and ready to go? Pick any game of your choice, no storage needed (like a Kindle for board games). The cherry on the cake is that you can go to bed right after! Honestly, if that doesn’t sound great to you, then maybe re-read this once you turn thirty :) .