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What’s next for Augmented Reality: the MWC keynote by Eric Schmidt

March 1, 2012

An excellent keynote speech on the second day of Mobile World Congress by Eric Schmidt is now up on YouTube. Below an interpretation what this all means for the development of Augmented Media and a few notes I took which may help you as a viewing guide.

In general, Schmidt didn’t refer too much to our area of interest which is all about Augmented Media in a mobile setting. Nevertheless his keynote is very relevant for the mobile future.

It is all about ubiquity and better performance at the tech side, and openness and willingness to cooperate at the governmental side and regulatory side.

As a matter of fact, performance will double roughly every year and half, a fairly autonomous process according to Moore’s law – this is where the Google engineers are working on to make it happen, especially where it concerns improvements which will be visible to end users.

For Augmented Reality applications this means that we will see the more than welcome improvement in responsiveness and accuracy. A sneak preview exists today: the continuous scanning mode in Google Goggles is in fact a sandbox application of Point and Know, a strong viual approach to search and discovery which will dramatically change the way we will interact with our environment in the future.

Imagine what real-time visual discovery can mean for illiterate people for instance, or to enable the so often cited “Terminator View” to overlay products and locations with background information. New Input/Ouput devices will definitely accelerate this development further (apparently it was too early for an official announcement of the highly anticipated Google Glasses right now).

With all this in mind it is really important to see that Google takes responsibility to make this kind of mobile distributed computing power really universally accessible and conquer the digital divide by working on other means of distributed connectivity besides our traditional cellular networks (using peer-to-peer, mesh networks for example).

Eric shortly mentions connected sensors but doesn’t go in much detail. In fact this very interesting area is slightly under exposed on the whole MWC event this year. We will write a separate post on this subject later.

For those of us who continually pay attention to the mobile developments Eric Schmidt’s talk does not reveal very new insights, rather confirms a very consistent and directed vision of Google how the connected future will look. Not surprisingly this is very much dominated by bringing the results of all this computing and technology as close to the end user as possible, by going mobile. And the best part is that all of this computing power will become invisible in the process, just like the electricity power grid is an invisible resource, a given which empowers us to focus on our real needs. Very well said, and something to be proud of as a front-runner to make this happen for Augmented Media.

On to the notes…

Chrome for Android

This part was more of a sales pitch for the upcoming Chrome browser for Android. Still very interesting because of the new User Interaction design which is really very well thought out for best mobile user experience. Highlights:

  • Preloading of websites in the background (default on for WiFi)
  • Link preview, a magnifying glass for clustered links
  • Swiping tab navigation with slick 3D effect
  • Nice stacked tabs deck view with swiping effects to expand or remove tabs
  • Share tabs and history between desktop and mobile (note: Firefox has this in production for over a year now)

The UI improvements are definitely the most impressive, the rest of Chrome for Android is not a very surprising move in the direction of Google taking more control over the web experience. For now this is not a bad development, the browser looks solid and nice, but on the longer term it might lead to more vendor control as well. Don’t write off WebKit and Firefox yet!

Future Vision

Moore’s law will provide us with essentially unlimited storage, bandwidth and CPU speed. Google is working on next generation network technology. Also, connected sensors are starting to be deployed just now. This all is backed by the technology trend of “big data”.

We are under-estimating the speed at which the “futuristic” vision will become reality, such as robots working for you. Example: the self driving Google car. Also: better simulations and prediction in health and education and such. Another example: holographic images with real life gaming experience will be reality soon.

Technology essentially just disappears (the visual and annoying part), it will be just there, like electricity.

The technology lives in the cloud.

Mobile evolution

This is pretty much about the digital divide, and how to close the gap.

Segmentation in groups:

  • Early adopters, the active innovators
  • Connectors, the growing middle class who will happily adopt the new possibilities, still a minority
  • Creators (builders) vs buyers, the latter being more reactive but still sophisticated consumers of the services the 10% builders create
  • The aspiring majority. For most people worldwide the web is still a scarce resource, with non-connected areas and small connected oasis. Upcoming countries like Turkey and Asia where nee infrastructure will be rolled out coming years. These users will skip the wired infrastructure, going straight over to mobile/wireless.

Vision: the phone will come preloaded with for instance medical diagnosis tools, which may be pretty low tech essentially: just take a picture and send to your doctor.

Smart phones being part of their own mesh network, peer to peer connectivity, which may even be decentralized and not on the global internet. Real option for extended rural areas (just handsets powered by solar energy). Lowest point of entry will be feature phones set up this way, by the end of the decade. A single internet access point can connect these type of meshed oasis to the rest of the world. This will help break dictatorships and censorship at the same time. Technology as an enabler for self powered citizen networks.
At the other hand, there are now 40 countries with a form of online censorship. Technology will circumvent these types of digital censorship, and here Eric Schmidt also references the current discussion which is going on in the US about central control and censorship.

Q&A session

Just a few quotes…

  • When will smart phones take over feature phones? Next year, because of Moore’s law, when the price point will drop below $70,-
  • Call to regulators: focus on the desired outcome rather than the technology, this drives innovation contrary to the limiting effect regulations will on technical level will have.
  • Media will live in the network, as just bits, no more DVDs or other physical media.
  • Technology makes us more connected than ever, we need new usage patterns where we still can turn off the connection or the device if we like to do so.
  • Google will improve advertising targeting to be more relevant for the end user using all of their technology and services. Mobile ads can be even more targeted, in benefit of both users and advertisers. Google revenues depend for 98% or so on advertising.
  • Android usage: 300 M devices activated, 850.000 per day now.
  • Regulators and operators need to work close together to improve bandwidth and accessibility rather than tolerate expensive fees and throttle bandwidth. Wireless data is the only real source of growth, upgrade to 4G and next will support this.
  • Tracking vs privacy: Chrome supports the incognito mode which can be set as a user preference.
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