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What life will be like when the computers disappear

USATODAY - Tech Top Stories

Want to try Alexa in your home? The Dot is on sale right now! (Photo: Amazon) What happens when the computers around you all but disappear? It is still very early, but the era of ambient computing is slowly taking shape, whether in the form of the voice-driven smart speaker on your kitchen countertop, or via the IoT (Internet of Things) devices and appliances that are designed to blend into the background. Stakeholders include the giants of tech: Amazon, Apple, Google, IBM, Microsoft, and Samsung, among them. But disruption may also come from companies not yet on the public's radar.

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The human interface that connects us with machines -- the way we interact and control them -- has changed a lot over the years. From tactile methods like knobs, buttons, keyboards, pads and touch screens to more recent voice and visual command capabilities, we've adapted our devices to become more user-friendly and more humanlike by using more intuitive input techniques. We've all grown accustomed to the swipe, the pinch, the "Hey, Google," and the hand gesture to tell our devices what to do. But they still require the human element, a proactive direction by a person. A new generation -- indeed, ecosystem -- of devices, will be driven by interfaces that perceive your wants and needs.

AI-powered ambient computing is just getting started


It's hard to believe that not even 75 years have passed since ENIAC, that room-sized, 30-ton calculating machine, was the number-crunching hero of World War II. Since then, technology has evolved and converged into myriad applications -- including the internet; internet of things (IoT); big data; mobile, virtual, and augmented reality; machine learning; and artificial intelligence. These applications operate infinitely more quickly, ubiquitously, and unobtrusively than ever before. This world of ambient computing, or ambient intelligence, will continue to unleash waves of innovation that will fundamentally change how we live and work. Ambient computing covers applications incorporating machine learning and other forms of artificial intelligence and is characterized by human-like cognitive and behavioral capabilities and contextual awareness.

Ambient Intelligence


Smart watches and fitness trackers are only the first signs of a world that will enfold us in a subtle but ubiquitous web of connectivity. We have digital assistants that can make a restaurant reservation, lock the garage door, or check whether our laundry is dry when asked. We have tablets with cameras that automatically track us as we move around to make our video calls feel more like being there. We even have home automation hubs that use subsonic sound waves to locate us in a room and make their displays more readable from a distance. The next logical step will be not needing to interact deliberately with our devices at all.