Friday, August 13, 2010

End of Hardware!

Too much hyped up a title for this post?? I dont think so...

In fact, I got this title from one of the amazon books that I came across recently. Sometime back, I had written about the evolution of hardware devices such as analog devices in recent times like how they are morphing themselves into smart, internet-enabled digital devices. But, if you notice, those devices are actually relinquishing their physical forms...

For example, we were using analog alarm clocks a decade ago. Do we buy them at all today?
I dont see many of the today's smartphones have keypads. KeyPads are disappearing and converged into touch-panels within the mobile devices. Today, I came across this mobile app from General Motors that plans to have embed your car key functions within an application. Here, your physical car key disappears. One more example - recently California Administration recently came up with an innovative idea of turning car name plates to digital sign boards that can display advertisements.

Maybe, Ten years from now, we will use less physical devices compared to today's scenario. As the book states, we may not see huge physical machines such as Cars, Utility machines going away.They would be still around. But, what I see is that most of the information-emitting or information-requiring special devices will go away. They would all converge to a new digital experiences.

Yes, the new digitial experience that is gaining momemtum these days is 'Augmented Reality'.

Augmented Reality is a term for live direct or indirect view of physical real-world environment whose elements are augmented by virtual computer-generated imagery. Its basically an enhanced view of reality mediated by technology.

One of my colleagues introduced me to Layar, an augmented reality browser for Android platform. It is available in most of the smartphones today. Using the browser, the user can view enhanced / additional or hidden information by focusing the mobile on a real-world object / location. This is enabled by GPS technology & Internet feeds with exclusive additional information about the real-life objects. For example, using this app on your mobile, you can search for health care facilities or even jobs around your location or a Service person can view the hidden mechanical parts information within an automobile.

One could explore the other possibilities of this technology by looking at the examples quoted in Wikipedia.

I personally believe this technology has lot of utility value and could explode in useful business/consumer applications in future.

More than that, It could also be the beginning of the end of Hardware devices.

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