Microsoft HoloLens and Insider chiefs suggest smartglasses will replace smartphones

Go ahead, laugh. Call telephony-enabled smartglasses a sci-fi fantasy. But remember, sci-fi has an uncanny knack at becoming reality. Technological leaps such as the moon landing, the mapping of the human genome, cloning, artificial intelligence, bionic limbs and more were all foretold within the annals of science fiction.

For some, the notions sci-fi proposes are merely entertainment. For others, they are sources of inspiration that expand perception, ignite imagination and become the underpinnings of confidence in human ingenuity. Such ingenuity has been confidently applied to exerting our God-given dominion over the material world and shaping it to conform to our imaginations.

The technology that is both the foundation and context of modern society is the result of these actions. Not everyone can see beyond the paradigms that rule our current experiences, however. The present way of doing things, the systems that are in place and the apparent immutability of both obscures the vision of some.

So when someone like me, HoloLens creator Alex Kipman or Windows Insider Chief Dona Sarkar suggests that one day augmented reality (AR) smartglasses may replace the "all important" smartphone, we should be prepared for passionate resistance.

Alex Kipman says smartphones are dead

Kipman's assessment of the smartphone's status and where we are headed technologically is bold and decisive:

Smartphones are yesterday's news. The phone is already dead. People just haven't realized.

Kipman is a "futurist". As such he looks at current technological trends, observes the path they're forging and makes predictions about where that road will lead. He sees mixed reality, the spectrum from AR to virtual reality (VR), as becoming mainstream, emerging from the current paradigm of highly mobile computing and becoming the next personal computing and communication model.

Smartphones, the intelligent cloud, and digital assistants have made computing highly personal and mobile. Under the current smartphone model, we engage our digital experiences by staring downward, away from our world, at a tiny screen. Kipman anticipates that technology like Microsoft's AR holographic wearable computer, HoloLens, will replace our screens and merge our physical and digital worlds. From Kipman:

The potential of these devices is that they could one day replace your phones, TVs, and all these screens. Once your apps, videos, information, and even social life are projected into your line of sight, you won't need any other screen-based gadgetry … [it's] the "natural conclusion" of mixed reality.

Dona Sarkar says staring at a smartphone screen is unnatural

A visit to any public venue will reveal a troubling scene where dozens of people of varying ages spend their time at dinner, on dates, shopping and more with their heads bowed in reverence to their smartphones.

Many people see this paradigm and the associated unnatural bowed head, swiping, tapping and zooming means of interaction as something that's here to stay. One thing about technology's evolution, however, is that more often than not, it conforms more to us than we to it.

Sarkar sees mobile technology and Microsoft's investments in ARM, cellular, HoloLens and mixed reality as producing a mobile device that replaces the smartphone and allows natural human interaction.

Dona Sarkar talks about the future of mobile.

Sarkar said:

Let's talk about what mobile means ... people think about mobile as this thing that they carry around in their pocket … I love my 950 XL … but that is not the only mobile device on the planet. HoloLens is a mobile device ... There are going to be new device categories in the future that are also going to be mobile devices. It will be about things you carry with you everywhere you go.And as humans it is actually very unnatural for us to stare at a screen ... this has only been around for the last 10 years … it makes us antisocial, it makes us not behave the way humans do.

Sarkar, like Kipman, hints that Microsoft will create a device category where our digital lives and physical worlds meet via a "screenless" mobile device that replaces the smartphone. The ultimate vision of an ultimate mobile device or "Surface phone" may be full Windows 10 AR smartglasses.

The way it was, is and always will be?

Some individuals, unable to see beyond "the now," resist the notion that things won't always be the same. Some even mock those who present an image of a future ruled by another paradigm and that follows different systems than what is currently in place.

Still, change is inevitable. The naysayers or non-dreamers barely realize they are moving forward, changing their behavior as technology slowly changes their reality.

Take telephones for instance. Home telephones became car phones, which became forearm sized mobile phones, later becoming cell phones that were pocketable bricks, and finally veritable pocket-sized, touchscreen computers or smartphones.

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Over the years during that transition life continued, distracting us and the non-dreamers, as feature phones in all their dumb glory, then smartphones went from early adopter novelties to social mainstays. We lost sight of the technological wonderment the devices initially provoked as the marketing and social undertow of the "next big thing" dragged us continually to the obligatory annual upgrade.

We are easily lulled into complacency as the new, becomes the norm, the norm becomes dull, and the dull becomes "just the way things are." We're in a constant cycle of visible change.

Do you see what I see?

For non-dreamers, seeing the technological shifts, trends and behaviors that are shaping tomorrow is a difficult challenge. If what a visionary or futurist presents as an impending future differs too much from the current reality, non-dreamers often dismiss it, seemingly unable to see the breadcrumbs highlighting the way to the future.

They often do see the path once the journey is done, however, as they look back and remember when things were different.

Futurists may have that same level of awe as they look forward while observing current trends that they perceive are leading to an imminent technological shift toward smartglasses-as-phones that will change society and human interaction.

Telephony-enabled AR smartglasses

Like Sarkar and Kipman I see smartphones one day being replaced by AR smartglasses.

ODG CEO Ralph Osterhout, who's bringing the R-8 (consumer) and R-9 (business) smartglasses to market, also sees this future. Though these Android-based smartglasses don't currently have telephony, its on the product roadmap. ODG's partnership with the world's largest carrier, China Mobile (which serves 800 million people), will be strategic leverage for telephony-enabled smartglasses.

Microsoft's Sarkar and Kipman allude to AR smartglasses replacing smartphones. Other futurists including Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and ODG's Osterhout see the same future. The question is who will get there first or do it smarter.

Either way, whether you see it or not, the transition is coming.

Jason L Ward is a columnist at Windows Central. He provides unique big picture analysis of the complex world of Microsoft. Jason takes the small clues and gives you an insightful big picture perspective through storytelling that you won't find *anywhere* else. Seriously, this dude thinks outside the box. Follow him on Twitter at @JLTechWord. He's doing the "write" thing!

160 Comments
  • Oooooooook! Another futiristic article from the Warditorial!
  • People can't see past the curve. People can't see at all.... This technology (Processor, screens, wireless, applications, memory) is all just human evolution.. Dona is right, it's unnatural.. It has to be unnatural until humans selectively make it natural enough to where it ALMOST "disappears".....
    ........
    But, I understand what's really happening. Hundreds of Millions, and millions, of years ago animals didn't even have eyes... Now, most animals have eyes... That evolution started somewhere.. The fact is that a very long time from now all of the technology that we developed today with come naturally at birth with an evolved version of us.. I'm saying that a creature, that will have evolved from us, will be born with telephony, and ways to augment it's reality. Technology, thoughts, lessons, information, will be able to be shared between these creatures by a "biological cloud"... Sound familiar? Do certain insects already do this today?....
    We are unconsciously evolving ourselves to have no need for electro/mechanical peripherals. It's fact.
    Now, let's talk about looking beyond the curve.
  • I have to admit that I'm a short sighted simple person that I can't look beyond Kipman's curve.  I can't imagine that I would ever walk around wearing HoloLens or AR Smartglasses all day and consider myself 'natural'.  All I want from MS now is to deliver the rumored ultramobile WoA device with a foldable screen and phone features as soon as possible.  I'm willing to suffer by using the screen and not to complain it is unnatural.  I promise.  :-)
  • Billions of people already walk around with glasses on everyday. I don't see what's so hard to imagine about that. Lol
  • But not whole the day and whole the time. And if you have to put on glasses every few seconds to do the job and remove them then it won't work.
  • But you have to pick up the phone every time you want to do something as well. Glasses will merge the category between smartphone and tablet, because screensize will be whatever you want it to be.
  • Well you don't have to put the phone onto your face to operate it. That's why people will always use phones. Because they don't want to wear glasses on their face whole the day and because it is too inconvenient to put them on and off so frequently. Maybe at some point there will be some smart contact lenses that can do that and that people may possibly wear whole the day. But that's at least 50 years from now.
  • Most ppl already have to wear glasses the whole day. I used to, it's not that big of an inconvenience. If built correctly, wearing them for 8 hours will be nothing. There's already tons of people that wear a headset all day or a hat/helmet. It's not a big jump for it to be glasses
  • Even my 70 year old father doesn't wear glasses all the day. Among those that need to many wear whole the day many use contact lenses. I think that you miss the difference between 'people' and yourself. I do agree that some people do that and that they could be the first target for this technology. But simply walking the street test tells you that people with glasses are minority.
  • That's pretty much exactly what my comment said.
  • Above, labsii makes this gem of a declaration: "That's why people will always use phones."  LMAO, you futurist you.  Ponder a couple of these gems: 1889: “Fooling around with alternating current (AC) is just a waste of time.  Nobody will use it, ever.” — Thomas Edison 1903: “The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty – a fad.” — President of the Michigan Savings Bank advising Henry Ford’s lawyer, Horace Rackham, not to invest in the Ford Motor Company. 1946: "Television won't be able to hold on to any market it captures after the first six months.  People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night." — Darryl Zanuck, 20th Century Fox. Source: Forbes Magazine.     
  • I said that, but if you took time to make a joke you could take time to read whole the conversation. I clearly said that smart glasses can't replace phones. I'll say that again. Smart lenses? Maybe, but just maybe. I said all of that. Not that the phones aren't irreplacable just they aren't replacable with smart glasess that's sure. Not because they have price, social, technology or any other problem but they are purely not ergonomic form that can work like phones.
  • @Ahy Nonimous: I love these futurists. They come up with orders of magnitude more failures than successes, even so-called visionaries (e.g. Edison, Gates). Care of MakeUseOf I grabbed a few from 8 spectacularly wrong predictions about computers and the internet Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons. – Popular Mechanics, 1949 I believe OS/2 is destined to be the most important operating system, and possibly program, of all time. – Bill Gates, 1987 Spam will be a thing of the past in two years’ time. – Bill Gates, 2004 Next Christmas the iPod will be dead, finished, gone, kaput.– Sir Alan Sugar, 2005 Soon: Smartphones are yesterday's news. The phone is already dead. People just haven't realized. - Some Windows employee, 2017
  • Yeah, but who stays on their phone the whole day, the whole time??
    It's really a non issue... And, hey, nobody is saying they are gonna make smartphones illegal. Use a slab, if you choose.
  • That's exactly the problem. People can easily pick up and dispose the phone whenever they want. They can't do that with smartglasses. That's why glasses aren't a good product form for the things that you need to frequetnly pick up and dispose.
  • 🤔🤔🤔❓
    The point is that the smartphone form factor isn't guaranteed, nor should it, go anywhere, at least not anytime even after (IF) smartglasses became popular... You sound like you wouldn't be interested in wearing them, and that's fine.. Some people think a lot of people would, and that's fine. That's why options are great. I don't see why you're so adamant on others not having the option to choose what they want... If you don't think a pair of smartglasses fits your needs, then choose something else. Look at all the different form factors of PC we have. We have those options for a reason. Don't get so hung up on a few peoples point of view about what the future holds. Nobody really knows what the majority of people will be using anyways.. We do know that if OEM'S start making reasonably affordable, unobtrusive, and severely functional SG's there will be a definite market for them.. That's the whole point. Just take it with a grain of salt.
  • I agree. As you can see by going back, this thread is about wearing the device while the time. Actually this article is about that (making smartphones obsolete). And people complain that it isn't realistic and also that it might take a whole lot time if it is possible at all...
  • yes, the whole day and the whole time, this is what happens if you have to wear glasses, we only get to take them off for sleeping. The only exception is people who only need them for reading.
  • Most people over 40-50 has to wear glasses anyway. Most young people wear sunglasses at the beach. So waring glasses can of course be a trend. If they do something usefull. It's not so hard to imagni that glasses can be darker in the sun, fokus when you look at something closer (which will be a good send for thouse like me that had had theyr original lenses in the eye replaced with plastic lenses, whick is the current sullution today for people that get cataract) and completly replace the glasses many people wear all the time. I don't think this will hapen this year or next year, but in 5 - 10 years? 10 years ago i have a very small phone in my pocket that could call, send SMS and lisen to radio. And that was all. My current phone that I have had for more than a year (Lumia 950XL), can do so many things between act as a GPS system when driving, to act as a PC when at the cabin using the TV set. Your get the picture?
  • abel46: "Most people over 40-50 has to wear glasses anyway" [sic] Yes, and they do so for a reason--they can't see particularly well. This is a problem for "smartglass" makers since it means that a large percentage of your customers can't use the devices.
  • The new "smart-glasses" will of corse also work just as well or hopefully much better that the glasses older people uses today.