Much has been made of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality (AR), and Virtual Reality (VR) in consumer technology. History reminds us that technology does not live on software alone. Windows needed a computer, Siri needs the iPhone, and without hardware, the current surge in AI development will not move anyone forward. Companies able to innovate, manufacture, and deploy relevant and desired hardware interfaces will have the capacity to capture the market they seek and be able to bring those customers into their particular ecosystem. The signs in the industry are clear. To play with the big boys, you need to invest in hardware.
Google has not been merely relying on its Android mobile OS, and the equipment manufactures that it has traditionally looked to provide the needed hardware. Google entered the market in 2016 with a phone, router, Google Home, and Chromecast Ultra. They certainly did not stop there and included in their hardware offerings now are new phones, speakers, and even cameras. Although initially exclusive to their Pixel phone, the Google Assistant AI is being deployed across their product line.
Amazon released the Echo speaker in 2015, and they are using the massive Amazon presence and the Alexa AI to drive e-commerce and home automation in a space traditionally occupied by the smartphone industry. They recently unveiled new Echo devices including the Fire TV set-top box, and it looks like they are set to keep rolling out more in the next year.
An area to keep an eye on is the continued emergence of partnerships with third-party businesses that will leverage the hardware and AI to engage with users in new ways and will bring advertising dollars as well as new ways to use the devices. The key for these companies is to make these interfaces indispensable, and the way to do that is to open them up for a wide range of services and new ways of integrating technology into the everyday lives of consumers
One way that technology is used every day is the myriad of selfies and other pictures that capture the mundane as well as the most amazing experiences. The messaging app company Snap has even seen the value of going beyond just the software by producing their Spectacles, sunglasses that have a video camera built in that upload the day’s adventures directly to the Snapchat. Although largely seen as a stunt this move into the hardware race is sure to spin-off ideas and possibly signal a more substantial investment, included if rumors are to be believed, on drone platforms.
It is clear with the big companies like Google and Amazon, that hardware is not their primary business, and therefore they have the capital to test, develop and discover the best way to connect the software to the consumer. As they do, we are witnessing the birth and growth of new technologies that were until now the stuff of Science Fiction.
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