Technology Is Becoming Invisible
While technologies used to be discrete – a TV set was for watching television, a computer was for browsing the internet and a phone was used for communication. This is changing rapidly. We are witnessing powerful convergence forces, where services are increasingly becoming uncoupled from hardware.
For example, with streaming services TV can be consumed practically anywhere – on your TV, your computer and your mobile phone. And it’s also a portable experience, where you stop watching on TV and pick up where you left on your phone.
This means that gadgets and devices are increasingly becoming invisible tools for delivering the services we rely on. And with the power of cloud and artificial intelligence, the services will make these devices capable of things we never even dreamed of. Take Skype, for example. We are building into it a technology called Skype Translator, technology that lets you talk, in real time, to someone with whom you share no common language. No phone is capable of doing that on its own, but with the power of services, it can.
All of this means that the power of our computers and devices matters less and less. The most powerful computer, after all, is in the cloud and it delivers all the things that devices cannot on their own: stunning 3D, artificial intelligence and deep insight into data. This is also the reason, why Microsoft is emphasizing the mobility of experience and not devices. We believe that through cloud-powered services, users can use the tools they need on any connected computing device, regardless of the platform and hardware.
This concept of invisible technology will lead to important improvements in our personal as well as business lives. For example, before a meeting, a tool quickly scans your meeting invitation and tells you a bit about the people in the meeting – what they do, how you know them, when you last worked together – and reminds you what you needed to do to prep for the meeting. Sensors in the conference room detect your computer and connect you to the projector and dial other participants. Our researchers estimate that average 60-minute meetings could be finished in 45 minutes, giving people more time to focus on what’s important.
We recently launched Delve, a service that provides personalized information based on the data you create and is relevant to you. Office Delve surfaces personalized content to you from across Office 365 and enables users to create profiles that are available to their coworkers, making it easy to find the right expertise in your company. It is essentially a virtual assistant that gathers information for you and helps you manage it.
But looking outside the office, there are other ways for invisible technology to work for us. Beijing, for example, has serious air quality issues, so a Microsoft researcher built a project called Urban Air, which gives Beijing residents a real-time, hyperlocal view of the air quality in their neighborhood, right now and in the coming hours. The solution uses official air quality sensors as well as other data such as travel conditions, travel speeds, wind speed, temperature and humidity to analyze and provide real-time data about air quality. This is a cheaper method that uses cloud and artificial intelligence technologies to invisibly improve the quality of life for numerous people.
When you are thinking about technology, do not just consider how to make it flashy and attractive. Sometimes, it’s the invisible cogs in the background that deliver the most value and make the real difference.