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SPACE10 traces the journey of technology merging with our body (1/2)

'The Augmented Human' report by the Copenhagen and Delhi-based research and design lab recaps on how we got to the point where technology and humans seamlessly interact.

by STIRworld Nov 12, 2019

‘The Augmented Human’ report released by SPACE10 explores the increasing role technology plays in our lives. The study anticipates likely components of the next paradigm shift, imagining how computer interfaces could soon change, how augmented intelligence might transform technology, and how organisations and businesses are getting a foothold in this complex but opportunity-filled arena. Finally, it asks a simple question: where do we go from here?

The Augmented Human, Print Cover | The Augmented Human | Space10 | STIRworld
The Augmented Human, Print Cover Image Credit: Michael Mason

Before we embark on to find what lies ahead on the other side, we begin by tracing our journey till here, as per the report findings - reflecting on the time technology knocked on our doors, came inside, and never left.

The following excerpts have been taken from the report ‘The Augmented Human’, released by Space10 and authored by Chris Stokel-Walker.

a. A NEW DAWN

When Steve Jobs introduced the world to the iPhone in January 2007, he claimed that it would ‘revolutionise’ the industry. He wasn’t kidding.

The launch of the iPhone in 2007—and the raft of rival smartphones—heralded another dawn for technology: computers that were mobile and in ever closer proximity to us, devices that we could interact with through touch or gesture-enabled displays. 

50 min watch Steve Jobs iPhone Presentation, 2007 | The Augmented Human | Space10 | STIRworld
Steve Jobs iPhone Presentation, 2007 Video Credit: Jonathan Turetta

However, a new era is dawning, one that will further change how we interact with—and understand our relationship with—computers. Some of the technologies that look set to define this era are fast becoming commonplace—such as augmented reality (AR), voice technology and wearables.

Others are less familiar—like extended reality, diminished reality, or object and pose detection. But what unites them all is clear: they will bring computers ever closer to our bodies, smoothing the interaction between people and devices.

b. HOW DID WE GET HERE?

It wasn’t until the late 1970s and early 1980s that most people knew what a computer was—and, even then, only the most forward-thinking techies had one at home.

By the 1990s, though, the PC revolution was hitting its stride. A beige box—and later, thanks to Apple’s rethinking of tech aesthetics, a sleek, colourful computer—took pride of place in many bedrooms, studies and home offices.

Too smart for the majority of people to understand, too dumb to work without significant human input, these early computers were aimed solely at the workplace.

They {early computers} outsourced jobs too laborious or mentally complex to do in a timely fashion—like word processing, which had been previously manually performed by secretaries.

“They took over white-collar jobs and penetrated white-collar environments,” says John Vines, professor at Northumbria University’s school of design. 

The first computers were revolutionary, but almost exclusively geared towards specialists. | The Augmented Human | Space10 | STIRworld
The first computers were revolutionary, but almost exclusively geared towards specialists. Image Credit: Marie Mohanna

When the next giant leap happened, it was a game changer. The terminal became a ‘personal computer’ (the clue’s in the name) and, not long thereafter, started sprouting screens, mice and graphical user interfaces (GUI).

The world in the palm of your hand: The smartphone made every action immediate and physical. We no longer needed a cumbersome keyboard, malfunctioning mouse or slippery stylus to open and close the windows on our computers: our fingers could do that. Better yet, we had apps.

Blurring Boundaries: From babies who expect the picture on a television to change if they touch the screen, to silver surfers—or, internet users over 50—who complete crosswords on their tablets, the ease with which we’ve turned technology into a closer emulation of the way we interact with objects in real life is visible around us.

Slow, speedy and slow again: the S-curve representing the growth cycle of technological developments | The Augmented Human | Space10 | STIRworld
Slow, speedy and slow again: the S-curve representing the growth cycle of technological developments Image Credit: Marie Mohanna

And we are already starting to see hints of future technologies available in the palms of our hands: from augmented reality apps to digital assistants, we’re beginning to play around with innovations that may very well represent the next dominant technology paradigm.

c. THE CURRENT STATE OF TOMORROW’S TECH

As our attention shifts to devices on our wrists, in our ears and on our bedside tables, technology is becoming ever closer integrated with our everyday lives, recasting our engagement with it.

The smartphone market saw its first year-on-year decline in sales at the end of 2017. “We have only been in the mobile era for a decade, and now something new is on the horizon,” says Dennis Mortensen, founder of AI startup x.ai. Smartphones are set to lose their monopoly.

01 min watch Music-focused publication Crack Magazine recently collaborated with legendary electronic artist Aphex Twin to create a series of posters which would come to life in AR throughout the streets of London| The Augmented Human | Space10 | STIRworld
Music-focused publication Crack Magazine recently collaborated with legendary electronic artist Aphex Twin to create a series of posters which would come to life in AR throughout the streets of London Video Credit: Zubr VR

The way we engage with computing power is becoming altogether more interactive. From technology responsive to our gestures, like Leap Motion’s hand tracking software, to cameras which track our eye movements, like smile to pay systems, we’re a world away from how we used to interact with computers.

Where we historically have been forced to speak the language of computers in order to interact, they are now starting to speak the language of people.

One day, information that’s currently embedded in our screens might bleed into physical reality—further blurring the line between the physical and digital worlds. | The Augmented Human | Space10 | STIRworld
One day, information that’s currently embedded in our screens might bleed into physical reality—further blurring the line between the physical and digital worlds. Image Credit: Marie Mohanna

Our augmented future: As we step away from the latest ‘AI winter’—broadly defined as a period during which interest and investment in AI plummeted—we’re starting to see computers that are trained in spatial and visual skills helping to define and recognise objects and people.

But as their use becomes commonplace—and as more time is spent fine-tuning their skills—they’ll become even more of a staple of society, transforming themselves from eye-catching gimmicks into practical, meaningful aspects of our lives that we don’t think about.

15 min watch Taiwanese AI expert and former Apple and Google executive Kai-Fu Lee presenting an optimistic view of AI’s potential for the future | The Augmented Human | Space10 | STIRworld
Taiwanese AI expert and former Apple and Google executive Kai-Fu Lee presenting an optimistic view of AI’s potential for the future Video Credit: Courtesy of TED

Read more: SPACE10 speculate components of our augmented future (2/2)

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STIRworld

STIRworld

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