In 2009, Microsoft unveiled a peak into the future world of 2019.
A world where touchscreens are seamlessly imbedded into every table, and newspaper-like flexible touchscreens exist for those nostalgic for old newspapers.
The world where A.I. participates in the Internet Of Things and smart cups know how much you’ve drank, pads can recognize plant life through an image scan, and school blackboards can recognize sketches drawn by students and even animate them.
Despite the bland, grey-green tone of the whole video (perhaps partly due to its focus on business in the future) the video did seem to try and paint an optimistic tone to our future that at the time was a decade away.
However, it’s now almost 2019, and some have noted that this video isn’t in tune with reality. At first glance to the average tech consumer, it can be hard to pinpoint how things have changed. But the world technologically has drastically changed since this video was unveiled.
A.I. and A.R. has been utilized more and more by tech companies. Facebook has their AR Studio, Snapchat has their AR filters, and Apple has their AR Kit. Social media companies are using A.I. for programs like photo recognition or content curation and, like in the Microsoft video, for automatic language translation.
Gear like Alexa or Apple’s HomeKit are both geared towards the Internet of Things, and it’s clear various objects will become more connected into the 2020s.
Flexible technologies are also becoming more of a thing, with Samsung’s first foldable phone.
However, the video still looks very different. The main issue is that while the technology in the video does exist today in primitive prototype form, creating a mass-produced consumer product is much harder.
The Gartner Hype Cycle is the reason why we’re promised exciting technology that never seems to fully arrive.
There is an initial spike where a scientific breakthrough reveals a possible future technology. A cheap prototype is built, and early adopters and media rush to it. The momentum fades and the product is forgotten for several years. During this time, the product is perfected by learning from the mistakes shown during the hype (Google Glass…).
Crowdfunding campaigns have this problem a lot. Vessyl was supposed to be a smart cup that could tell you what you were drinking but after several setbacks the company was shut down indefinitely.
That being said, the Microsoft video also showed us a couple of things that looked cool in 2009, but seem impractical today. The phone the man uses at 2:12 in the video detaches into separate pieces, where one can act as a speaker and microphone and the other as a video feed when you video call.
The other not so useful feature is the lighted arrow that projects from the phone to point you the way you need to go. An on-screen arrow is just as effective and not as invasive to the environment.
No one can read the future, but these “glimpse ahead” videos make educated guesses based on the present reality. Perhaps these videos on the future could also have a little less metallic grey tones and a little more color.