Facebook of the Future

This article was first published by dmcityview.com

The future is gonna be great. Computers are gonna be the size of coins, they’ll be able to process videos and games quicker than you can read this run-on sentence, and screens will be floating holograms in the air… At least that’s what I’m told. See every spring the world’s tech giants hold their annual developer conferences and use their moment in the limelight to proselytize their version of the tech future. This spring the most bombastic version of the tech future came from Facebook, who in so many words said the end of the smartphone is nigh.

Dubbed “Facebook F8,” the annual developer conference is the routine moment for Mark Zuckerberg to throw out his pie in the sky ideas. In 2015 is was connectivity and messaging. In 2016 Zuck waxed poetic on the imminent omnipresence of artificial intelligent mobile assistants (think next-gen versions of Google Now, Amazon Echo, or Siri). As for 2017, well apparently we’re a stone's throw from the death of the smartphone. What does Zuck see bringing on the smartphone’s demise? Virtual and augmented reality.

Now if you’ve been paying attention long enough, you might recognize that VR has been “the next big thing” for anywhere between five and 25 years. At some point the next big thing actually has to materialize right? Well Facebook seems to think that time is now, because it appears it's 2014 acquisition of Oculus Rift may have secretly been a move to engineer mobile VR and AR gadgetry. While VR might make you think of wrapping your head in a enclosed high-tech helmet screen, AR turns glasses and camera lenses into the screen. If Zuck has his way, the next Oculus gadget will be a combination of Google Glass portability and concept, blended with Snapchat’s face modeled AR graphics, and a sprinkling of Facebook’s community consumption of content.

Talking about the end of the smartphone is a flashy way to get headlines, but the truth is Facebook is really just taking a run at a bunch of failed or faltering tech ideas. VR hasn’t taken off because the necessary equipment is ridiculously expensive, AR was a flash in the pan hit with Pokemon Go! last summer only to flame out quickly when no one presented any other good ideas, and Google Glass was hit with some of the worst press you can imagine for its unflattering design and potential to invade people’s privacy.

Facebook will not be killing the smartphone. At least not with these tools and a flashy presentation. Even it's unveiling of a bonkers brain-reading concept tech is nothing more than an idea at the moment. If the market rejected web-connected glasses with embedded cameras, telepathic headbands have virtually no chance of consumer adoption. Much like a car show, these conferences are purely about showmanship. Brain powered computers are nothing more than concept cars; you likely won't own it for years to come, if ever.

See what F8 2017 was actually about was luring programmers to develop for Facebook’s new camera AR functionality called Camera Effects. All the marketing puffery is just cover to Facebook’s real motivation to steal another feature from Snapchat and hopefully lure some developers and tech columnists in the process.

Will the smartphone permanently sit atop the mountain of consumer tech? Goodness no. The desktop, the laptop, the iPod, the smartphone, the tablet, wearables… Each of these hit the market with a fervor and drove the marketplace wild, and as each tech innovation rises, a previous one falters. Eventually something will topple the smartphone, but it’s unlikely to be announced at a developer conference. While everyone is eager to see what’s next, the smart money is not on an idea but a previously unrealized device.

Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. For more tech insights, follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb


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