Will smart headphones replace smartphones?


#1

This is an advance in technology that I’m excited about so I thought I’d share.

I think in the next 5 years people will stop using smartphones. I think this, because the technology in natural language processing and AI is advancing so quickly that current technologies like Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s AirPods, Google Assistant equipped headphones etc. will soon be able to do everything our smartphones can but using our voice instead of tactile input.

We will be able to say “call an Uber to NYC, Venmo Tim $10, read me the news, text mom “I’ll be home at 8” or book a flight to California and an AirBnb. Basically everything we can do by touching our phones can be replicated by speaking into our smart headphones instead.

This seems like a radical shift because right now smartphones seem, new, advanced and high tech but that’s the way the old rotary telephones once were perceived too.

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I think the same way we look at this now ^ is how teenagers in the next few years will look at our iPhones when they get their first smart AirPods.

“You mean you guys had to do things with your hands??! You couldn’t just tell it what to do? How primitive.”

I think it’s easy to argue that many people are still hooked on somethings that require screens. Games, social media, video watching etc. I think the reason the adoption will still occur is that whenever convenience is a factor, it overrides everything else. The reason we routed all the way down into smartphones is because they were small, easy to carry around, always available and really use to use compared to having to use a desktop computer for things. It’s been like this for every major adoption. Credit Cards, Fast food, Uber, Venmo, Amazon, are all things that have been adopted and become popular mainly due to convenience.

Convenience drives the adoption of everything. And once you get used to it you can’t go back.

So the thing with smart headphones is, that it’s a lot more convenient to just talk to something than fiddle around on your phone with tiny keyboards. Once I tried my friends Alexa to play music, watch things on Netflix, read news, listen to audiobooks going back and doing those things that required a screen felt cumbersome and primitive.

I don’t think all use cases for screens (consumer uses) will be gone but I think even right now 50% of them can be gone. And in 5 years I think that number will be 80-90%.

This is the advance in technology that I’m actually optimistic about because it goes back to how humans naturally do things. Biologically we weren’t meant to fiddle around on screens. This is a behavior that isn’t natural and incurs a lot of technostress. Speaking however is something that’s natural to us and not stressful for us to do. This is a way for technology to get back to improving our lives rather than taking away from it.

Smartheadphones would just look like the already existing wireless headphones, they would just have the capabilities of your phone embedded inside rather than just being headphones alone. They would like just like this: (these are the Bose wireless headphones)

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#2

A really insightful post. Thanks for letting me think about the consequence of ongoing developments in the voice recognition-area.

When I look at the picture, I do get a feeling that it would further increase the friction in our social, day-to-day communication with stranger. I noticed that when I was using the public transportation, the train in particular, I preferred to shut myself from the outside world by using a Bose noise-cancelling headphone. The reason for this is that because I saw the chit-chat on the train as a nuisance. However, I have come to realize, is that it is far better to join the conversation rather than to withhold from it, by escaping it through modern luxury accesories.

I do hope to spend less time on my phone, which this technology would allow, but I see also another downside to it. In the end I think the benefits will outweigh the (social) costs, but I am afraid it would get more and more difficult for new generations to make this same kind of considerations as that I do. I guess that is me just starting the process of getting older :sweat_smile:


#3

Yeah to be honest I didn’t think of it like that. I guess it can take away from inter human communication in social settings but I think only with people that you might not know.

I take the train into NYC sometimes and in general it’s a miserable process so the last thing I want to do is engage in a conversation with a stranger, especially given some of the…err…rather strange people you meet in NYC sometimes. I have actually been thinking about getting a pair of the wireless Bose headsets so that I can be shielded from human interaction in those scenarios.

But I do agree that it would be weird/hard in social settings with people you know. If you want to do something quick you’d have to pop your headphones in. Or would people get used to having them in all the time and interacting with each other almost like how the secret service/fbi wears earpieces at all times.

The other thing I forgot to mention is that this acceleration in technology will also occur in other areas primarily virtual reality. So as smartphones dull and become to be seen as obsolete VR will become the new shiny exciting gizmo that everyone wants as is hooked on.

If people are this immersed in smartphones I can’t help but be slightly afraid of how addictive virtual reality will become. The good thing is that since internet addiction and smartphone addiction are starting to become more mainstream, individuals and parents will at least have some warning going in and know that these things aren’t just harmless forms of entertainment like we once though with social media and video games.


#4

This is fascinating. I’m not sure if I would personally make the change to voice-based technology instead of a smartphone, though. I am very visually-oriented and I remember things much better if I read them versus if I hear them. I worry that I’d actually have a more difficult time using an audio-only device as a way to store and retrieve information.

In addition, I feel like this could actually be worse for digital addiction. An in-ear device would not only be distracting, but also incredibly discreet and therefore abusing it wouldn’t have the negative connotation of “being glued to your phone”. I also have reservations that a more complex, voiced AI could be our brain’s new stand-in for actual human interaction.


#5

My husband participated in the Google Glass program (he won a competition for the ‘right’) prior to its public release. A lot of what they wanted to do, was just this. The goal was to speak your world and have Google execute it. It was incredibly intrusive and rude. I hated the experience. There’s nothing worse than going out to dinner with someone who is bobbing their head and speaking to the air and asking for things.

For his use case, he wanted to be able to easily record videos of him doing everyday things with just one arm but that goal was pushed aside for the other features. He ended up never doing those videos (unfortunately) but after just a couple months, he put aside the Google Glass and they are in a box somewhere collecting dust.

In some ways, I feel like smart earpods (for example) would in fact lessen the tether to a device because the goal is to speak and get action, whereas the use of the phone is far more immersive. The Google Glass was totally immersive since it displayed the ‘world’ in front of you while an earpod device or something of that ilk, but just connect you in an auditory way.

Google Glass was a largely bad project, from a lot of viewpoints, but it was the alpha test of a new way to communicate. It just didn’t work well. I can foresee more of this in the future whether it’s smart earpods or further expansion of the watches. It’s coming and it’ll happen. I don’t think it’s inherently bad, but we need to be cautious of how its used and how we let it affect us.

My thoughts are jumbled, apologies for the disjointed post.