Over the past few years I’ve grumbled about the effects of ‘Apple device fatigue.’ It’s that location on the space time continuum where we simply have too many technology gadgets– mostly from Apple– that take up time, effort, and money to own and manage.
Yet, something struck me when I watched Apple introduce the new HomePod, a high class version of Amazon’s modestly successful Echo and Alexa devices, and Google’s less-than-successful Home gadget. ‘Device fatigue’ could give way to Apple’s future in ‘ambient computing.’ Let me explain.
Like it or don’t, we see modern technology everywhere while we enjoy gadgets as a species, they do take up time to learn, manage, and use properly (or, improperly). HomePod is a sly dog method to get Siri– and another Apple-branded tech device– into the home in a big way, and just in time for the next wave of tech gadgets. HomePod focuses on sound in the home, but there’s a handful of microphones there so Apple’s Siri can be more friendly while being less intimate.
I hope Siri gets smarter but that’s a separate issue. We’re moving into the era of ‘ambient computing,’ a place where Siri takes on a prominent role to help us organize and control our gadgets– whether they’re in the home, on our person, in our car, or wherever wireless technology and connectivity take us in the near future.
That phrase needs to catch on. Apple’s CEO Tim Cook likes to say autonomous systems; technology which kinda sorta mostly manages itself and does what we tell it. But ‘ambient computing’ covers a broader spectrum of technology and capability; person, home, car, wherever.
Think of ambient computing as computer technology– in whatever form that may be; devices, apps, online, robots, home devices– as devices that are everywhere and need a central controller. What better way to control devices that exist everywhere than Apple’s mobile devices and Siri and iCloud connectivity.
The ambient computing foundation is being laid, so it’s not a completed platform and may likely never be completed (technology works that way so get used to a steady stream of changes), but humans need a simple interface to control it, manage it, and interact with it, whether it be HomePod, Siri on iPhone, iPad, Watch, or Mac, or, in the future, Apple Car or Apple Glasses.
As much as I’m not happy with Siri right now, and I’m not, Siri may well be the face of ambient computing in the near future; especially as Apple rolls out more gadgets that need management and interaction, and device makers flood the home with Interest of Thing (IOT) devices.
How do we interact with the Mac? Mostly point and click. iPhone and iPad? Touchscreen. Yes, Siri is, there, Siri can answer and perform some basic tasks and actions, but HomePod and Apple TV bring Siri to the living room in a different way, and, thanks to HomeKit and a half gazillion technology gadgets flooding the IoT market, we’ll need a way to handle each one in an appropriately human way. We tell them what to do. Ambient computing needs Siri. Siri needs some specific functions tied to devices. They’re made for each other.