Fate of Consumer Tech Revealed at F8
By Kostas Trakas
At Facebook’s F8 developer’s conference this week, Mark Zuckerberg painted a picture of the future of communication as he saw it. It was Augmented Reality (AR) served up on the Facebook platform and the emerging glasses-like devices that can display the AR world to their user. In fact, Zuckerberg emphasized that Facebook is, “making the camera the first AR platform.” In other words, the short-term goal is to have developers build content and applications that can provide engaging user experiences today, but more importantly will provide a ready to go app-base when the right AR gadget comes to market.
The first article I read after Zuckerberg’s remarks opined that this spelled the death of the phone, computer and TV. The disruption of these three consumer tech hardware categories would be on a scale greater than even Apple has been able to accomplish. However, I’m not so sure whether Facebook will be the one to lead that revolution.
Here’s why. All these technologies have one thing in common. They require some sort of manual input in order to function. If the standard input hardware is no longer available (i.e., keyboards and touch screens) users will still need an alternative way interact with these products. Voice is the most likely option. If we consider the leaders in consumer voice-interactive computing, that would put Google and Amazon in the lead. Other well-known voice-based assistants such as Siri and Cortana are much further behind because of one key factor – developers cannot build voice-driven apps using the core AI and all its capabilities.
In fact, the competition between Google’s Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa most closely resembles the race between iOS and Android as the two dominant mobile operating systems. At their current trajectory, these two platforms could become the de factooperating systems for all future AR consumer technology. After all, what’s so great about being able to interact with your friends using Facebook’s AR tools if you still have to carry around your phone to create posts or control your new Facebook glasses?
If Facebook wants to compete as more than a content provider and marketing channel in the coming AR disruption, then they will need to play catch-up in the voice-assistant platform space. I’m sure that’s in Mark’s 2018 F8 keynote speech.