The end of the double chin

We are the fattest generation in history. We have a 180-degree view, but we spend all our time looking down at a 30 cm 2 rectangle in our hands. This marvel of technology, which we call a smartphone, is actually a way for us to overcome the lack of integration that exists between digital and physical reality. Evolution as human beings has led us to communicate through voice, sight, smell, touch, etc., not through a screen. The very keyboards, which we are so used to, are nothing more than a translator for machines to understand us.

What is the alternative? A reality where the digital overlaps with the physical world. How? We will interact with reality as we always have, and technology will adapt. Voice, gestures, expressions, and smells that are captured by sensors like cameras and contact lenses and interpreted by software. We will escape from the ridiculous prison that is the screens.

Futuristic? No, it’s already reached the initial stage. Last month Facebook at its F8 conference announced some seemingly fun innovations, but they have big implications. Among them, augmented reality, and the ability of systems to understand images, videos and sounds in real time. Going back to the keyboard, Facebook announced that it is creating one that directly reads brain waves and writes the text.

In what is a clear copy of what Snapchat announced earlier, Facebook now also defines itself as “a camera company”. Why is this so important? Because the more pictures you have, the more information. When they say a picture is worth a thousand words, it’s true. A picture has our body and facial expressions, what we are wearing, the objects around us, and if you add sound and geolocation, a picture tells more about us than we know ourselves.

We will look thinner without screens…, but at what price? This technology, supposedly free, has several implications. Privacy is one of them, with companies again collecting more data than we know. Data that allows them to know us for better or for worst. If it’s just to recommend the best products or music, great. But if it’s used to condition or even judge or control us, we’ve entered a big brother more intrusive than George Well could ever imagine. On the other hand, the various companies are trying to lock us into their ecosystems. Let’s think about the case of Amazon Echo, a virtual assistant that is in our living rooms like a Bluetooth speaker. When we run out of toothpaste, we just have to say “Alexa, buy toothpaste” and immediately Alexa orders it from Amazon and they deliver it to our house in half an hour. Fantastic! Except that Alexa with this request decided that I will buy on Amazon and the type of toothpaste that suits her best, eliminating the competition. And by the way, with the data that Amazon has, it will probably already be producing the toothpaste in its Amazon Basics line (which already exists).

The example is not dramatic, but how are most companies that are still deciding whether to invest more in their basic ecommerce site compete with this level of sophistication? The concentration is happening worldwide in 4 or 5 big companies (Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, etc). The others will have to enter the ecosystem of these, losing relevance (and margin among others) and many others will simply disappear (the good ones may be bought by these).

Time is short for most companies to understand what is going on and adapt. Political leaders also have to learn what is happening in order to legislate. But in the meantime, we will find ourselves thinner as summer is coming.

David Bernardo
David Bernardo
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