The idea here is simple, I'm writing a near-future story and want to accurately represent how technology will progress. I'm looking at the current smart phone and want to expand its use to represent the realistic future. I'm looking for a general idea as to how the devices will be used, with a particular look at how they will interact with each other; i.e. how person A and person B may use their smart-devices to trade information and communicate even when standing in close proximity.

Presume a few basic things:

  1. This is set in the near future, a generation or so. I want to stay true to the non-centralized/non-regulated nature of internet of today. Many things in this future integrate together by now, but only because people came to adopt standards that they agreed were worth using. Interactions that require a monopoly to dictate all decisions about interoperability to be created won't be common.

  2. reliable high speed wireless internet is now considered a universal utility and is provided free by governments.

  3. smart devices are cheaper and battery life is quite long. Generally it's safe to assume almost everyone is going to have a working device on them.

  4. Many third party tools can be connected to with your device and this is the most common way to interact with them. You pay for something at the store using your device, you instruct your smart car where to drive with your device, You make reservations at a restaurant with your device and it buzzes when your seat is ready etc.

  5. devices allow lots of customization that a more tech-savy generation uses semi often, one of the reason other things interface with your device by default is so they can check what your preferences are. Everything uses your preferred language, knows rather to use metric or English units and preferred currency etc. by querying your device when you walk up to it. Every gas station can tell what quality of gas your want if you set it on your device etc.

  6. for now assume the device deactivates or switches to some restricted mode if someone other then its owner uses it and generally hacking and use of stolen devices is not much more of a threat then today. Also no government is monitoring people through their device, I'll tackle these issues later.

  7. The devices are sill small enough to fit on your person, which limits how we can interact with them. If your using a computer for awhile you still sit in front of a monitor and keyboard. I'm probably going to have everyone have a cloud based VM so rather then having a laptop you have a docking station at home, work, etc. that can connect to 'your' computer.

Given this I'm trying to accurately depict how people will be using these devices to feel realistic to new technology rather then just putting a shiny coating onto or existing capability. For that I'm looking for anything I may fail to realize about the use and function the devices will have, and how their daily use will look. What other features will be integrated into them? what other sensors might they have to support additional functionality? Will we blur the lines between personal computer, cloud, and smart device? How will the constant communication between personal device and other tools/tech, as well as two people sending data back and forth on their devices, be done in a quicker and convenient manner?

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    $\begingroup$ Buddy, if I knew the answer to that question, I'd be selling it to Google, not giving it to you. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Sep 30 '16 at 1:13
  • $\begingroup$ @kingledion shhhh, quite. Don't conince others not to give me a million dollar idea for free! Honestly I'll settle for not worrying anything I write today will be completely zeerust in a decade. Try watching Back to the Future 2 today and see what I mean. Only prediction they got right was 100 channels and nothing to watch. Of course you can't blame them. Who would guess we would be walking around with fully functional video phones and rather then talking to people face to face we use them most often to write 150 character text messages using way-too-tiny keypads instead? $\endgroup$ – dsollen Sep 30 '16 at 1:22
  • $\begingroup$ Read Ray Kurzweil about the Singularity and there is great video on youtube and such devics, but I can't remember what it is. Also, everything you're talking about can be right now. The issue is why we don't and what makes it a social norm which has little to do with technology. $\endgroup$ – Durakken Sep 30 '16 at 2:25
  • $\begingroup$ We'll still have gas stations in the future? $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Sep 30 '16 at 3:28
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    $\begingroup$ Look at Vernor Vinge's stories Fast Times at Fairmont High and Rainbow’s End. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Sep 30 '16 at 3:30

Thin Interface to Remote Resources

First of all, the device itself is going to go away or become so integrated as to be invisible. Already, devices have been developed allowing quadriplegics to control mouses and other computer interface devices, and black and white vision has been restored to the blind. Devices are also losing as many parts as can be gotten rid of (such as cables from ear buds). Ultimately, this will reduce the amount of computing capacity required locally, and thus the amount of power required. The overall power and capacity needs of batteries will eventually correspondingly diminish.

This sort of interface will become integrated directly into people's neurology, or use technology that can infer what motions the user is making. Fitbits and Athos devices do crude versions of this now. The same tech can be used to bioinformaticly identify the user, handling a lot of security and identification needs. Visual feedback can be achieved via glasses, contact lens or direct visual cortex cybernetics. The smaller the better, because they require less compute resources.

Given the presence of the universal datasphere, that is all these devices are required to do. Everything else will be hosted elsewhere, where hardware upgrades and replacements can be handled seamlessly without concerning the user at all.

The use of the device can already be seen now in what is known as 'Augmented Reality', where the real world can be overlaid with additional information and interfaces. The most recent popular example of this is Pokemon Go, which uses real-world places and 'shows' the Pokemon you're pointing at. The fidelity of this tech will get higher, and you will be able to 'Google' things simply by gesturing, overlaying any number of additional layers of data and interface. Google Glass is a recent example of a crude version of this type of interface, but all VR google type accessories fall into this category.

For most environments, no additional sensors need be carried by the user; those sensors will be scattered through the environment at an appropriate density, all feeding into central databases. This, ultimately, will be cheaper and more efficient than trying to manage user-based sensors which are reliant on user attention to details like power and replacement. Environmentally based sensors can utilize the same datasphere, and be replaced by automated drones when needed.

The trend towards keeping data 'locally' will vanish; everything will be stored and replicated elsewhere. People won't transfer data to each other, they will instead transfers pointers and keys to data kept elsewhere. You can, however, expect that data to be highly siloed by individual companies and for access to that data to be the major monetary gate. Still, you won't ever lose anything, and you won't spend huge amounts of time shuffling around or organizing that data.

Once the fidelity of the interface is high enough personal computers and smart phones will vanish - visual feedback will sit as close to your visual cortex as possible. Garments will have electronically activated fibers to allow you to feel other sorts of input. Sound can be piped directly to your aural nerves - perhaps even smells and tastes using similar techniques. Keyboards will vanish. Monitors will vanish. That is, except in highly specialized situations where the modern tech is either too subtle or not reliable enough that heavily-tested, older tech is preferable. Also in situations where a user is differently abled in such a way that the tech does not work for them.

Over time, the use of augmented reality will be such that most communication will happen through it, and the delineation between 'computer' and 'real world' will become finer and finer. Imagine, for instance, being able to 'ad block' billboards: suddenly billboards no longer make much sense for advertising. The interface will become like a whole additional brain that can be customized, on the fly, for the user's specific needs: other people they want to talk to will be right in front of them, sounds that are unpleasant will be cancelled out, literally everything will be modifiable to the needs of the user. Identifying things as 'programs' will become rarer and rarer as 'apps' move towards being 'items' in your reality. Anything you can imagine with a simulated computer world will be able to be pulled very close to the real world at that point. Indeed, because these interfaces will allow interactions with drones, remote 'abstract' appendages will become a thing: you will be sitting in a restaurant having dinner with a friend who is in a restaurant a thousand miles away while you both play chess via drone chess players in the park, all while you send intermittent instructions to drones rearranging your living room.

Books that deal with this are Vernor Vinge's A Deepness in the Sky and Rainbow's End, Charle's Strauss's Accelerando, Dan Simmon's Hyperion and Fall of Hyperion, and Ancillary Justic, amongst others.

I think one of the most interesting implications is that when we start to make our environment data-rich we will immediately start to find ways to filter out the massive amount of data - either in our brains or via automated systems doing it for us. This means everyone will be walking around in their own 'bubble': seeing the world fundamentally different from the person next to them. Of course, humans already do this - but it will be to a much more advanced degree.

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    $\begingroup$ What fraction of the population is going to accept implanted devices? Or FTM is going to want to do most of this stuff? I'd expect there would be subcultures that do these sorts of things, other subcultures that have absolutely no interest in them. Pokemon Go is a good example: despite it's reputed popularity, a quick search suggests that less than 10% of the US population has ever played it, with no data on the number of those who only played a few times then abandoned it. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Sep 30 '16 at 4:25
  • $\begingroup$ Many people made the same argument about wireless radios, tvs, and personal computers. Once the tech is proven safe and upgrade able, despite some holdouts, most people will convert because there is a fundamentally better value proposition. Pokemon go is a single, crude app: take smartphones, which were unused a decade ago and now prolific. We accept dental, bone, and in some cases chip implants already: this is just three or four steps further. It's coming. $\endgroup$ – Nathaniel Ford Sep 30 '16 at 4:28
  • $\begingroup$ I'm sorry, but I don't believe in full argumented reality & interface hype myself. We've been talking about the idea of making our bodies the computer for years, but the problem is it's not a convenient UI! Look at my example with smart phones, we now have the ability to video chat anyone, and we txt instead. The low tech solution was more convenient. Gestures are exhausting to make if exaggerated and too easily confused with accidental motion if kept small, particularly without physical feedback to help (compare touchpad keyboard to physical, which can you type with faster?) $\endgroup$ – dsollen Sep 30 '16 at 12:47
  • $\begingroup$ Ultimately this is why google glass was a fad that pretty much died. The glasses were cool, but nothing they did was all that helpful and they had lots of annoyances, they weren't really worth wearing even for many who owned them after the novelty wore off. Admittedly we could do better then that in the future, but frankly the confusion of mixing physical and digital to layman who don't know how to customize everything to their liking isn't worth it (imagine Microsoft clippy popping up in corner of your eye to offer suggestion in watching a movie and not knowing how to shut him up?) $\endgroup$ – dsollen Sep 30 '16 at 12:50
  • $\begingroup$ @Nathaniel Ford: I have to say the evidence disagrees with you. People 'convert' to smartphones because the networks e.g. phase out 2g, manufacturers don't make non-smart phones, and most people don't want to deal with buying used. (And apparently would rather pay outrageous monthly fees for a 'free' phone than buy outright.) And these are still devices: a better comparison to implants would be tattoos. Some people like them, others would only get them if done by a concentration camp guard. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Oct 1 '16 at 18:37

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