This week on #TechTalksWithMelwyn I will get you all the deets that you need to know about invisible computing and where the world is going with it!
Imagine walking into a crowded New York City bar on a Friday night and nobody is looking down at their smartphone, instead, everyone is looking straight ahead with a slightly vacant expression. No, they aren’t all high, but instead, that’s mass adoption of invisible computing.
Mojo, an Augmented Reality (AR) startup, defines invisible computing as the ability to stay connected with the world, our surroundings, and communications without the distraction of a device. It is expected to make our interactions with people and places more intuitive without the need for a device. Traditionally, AR is an interactive experience of the real-world environment where enhancements are made to the real-world using technology e.g. Pokémon GO allowed users to see mythical creatures on the streets around them using their cellphone cameras.
Mojo is looking to launch their device, the Mojo lens, that allows users to wear a contact lens-like device which projects digital information into their field of vision. The startup boasts about helping visually impaired people gain superpowers that help them navigate their day to day activities with minimal support. Their website also talks about use cases for not just the visually impaired, such as turn-by-turn navigation, important points for replacing an unfamiliar machine part, or talking points for a presentation – all without the need to hold up a clunky device. While these use cases sound exciting and promising, I doubt there will be a market for this device even if they can get the technology to work.
While the use of the term invisible computing for an existing device might be new, we have seen a slew of devices in this smart eyewear category that have failed time and again. Google Glass came about in 2012 and roughly followed the same concept, with a camera mounted on a spectacle frame and the lens doubling up as a screen. This led to the creation of a new word, Glasshole, used to describe someone who continues to wear the Google Glass while interacting with others and maybe recording the conversation or busy surfing the internet while in the middle of a conversation.
As if that wasn’t a deterrent to wearable recording devices, Snap (founder of Snapchat) created another set of recording eyeglasses in 2016 that they called “Spectacles’. How original! The failure of this device is attributed to both quality and the hesitance of people to wear recording glasses in social situations. Few more tries like the Intel Vaunt in 2018 that lasted all of three months and the Vuzix Blade that hit the market in early 2019 may tell you all you need to know about the bloody past of eyewear with technology embedded in it. Intel wasn’t done trying though, so they tried again in late 2018 when Amazon and Intel Capital funded “Focals” to integrate Alexa into a pair of eyeglasses that work by voice and a touchpad ring for your finger. More blood in the water.
Mojo doesn’t currently talk about using the lens for recording, but it’s a matter of time before conversations trigger reminders (read always listening) and pictures are taken for geolocation tagging. While I believe this technology can work wonders for those with impaired vision or even replace my GoPro while I’m doing an adventure sport, I just can’t see this assimilating into my day to day life. If checking your notifications is more important to you than holding up a conversation with someone in front of you, I’ll gladly pass on meeting you at the bar! Furthermore, these devices will just end up recording human behavior to enable tech companies to sell more ads and breach your privacy 24/7.
Hopefully, tech companies will just give it the old college try and move on! If you see a future for invisible computing as eyewear, let me know in the comments why you would wear a device that enhances your vision with digital pollution!