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Business trends: Bringing the office to cars, wrists, and ears

Mark Hachman | Jan. 13, 2014
While it's true that the Internet of Things and wearable technology in particular may represent the Next Big Thing in computing, the fundamental problem hasn't changed: how to take data, assimilate it, and apply it to make our lives more productive.

I also think that Nuance is well positioned for the next step beyond smartwatches: hands-free computing.

3.) Smart earbuds: the next opportunity 
Societal impact aside, most would argue that Google Glass represents the epitome of wearable computing: an unobtrusive assistant that provides contextual knowledge on demand.  But digital assistants don't have to be built around screens. Intel's development work on a smart earbud and "Jarvis" virtual assistant shows that a digital assistant can just as easily whisper in your ear.

Consider how many of you own Bluetooth headphones, which already accept a limited number of voice commands. But one can talk to an intelligent earbud as easily as a smartwatch or Glass, while the result is confidentially whispered into one's ear. It's actually a huge opportunity for a Jawbone or a Plantronics to exploit, should they wish to. (Jawbone has taken the first steps in this direction with its MYTALK platform, which can orally update you on your upcoming calendar appointments.)

And if you can justify a smartwatch purchase to eliminate the need to pull a smartphone from your pocket, buying a smart earbud shouldn't be too much of a stretch, right?

There's only one problem, and it's a fairly big one: safety. Google has no plans to add a cellular radio to Glass, probably because no one really wants an always-on, always-warm cellular radio transmitting radiation right next to your ear. So while a smart earbud may supplement a smartphone, odds are that it won't entirely replace it.

4.) The PC: A speech, gesture, eye-tracking gestalt
A day after returning from Las Vegas, I'm back in the office, trying to synthesize what I've learned on my touch-enabled Windows 8 PC. As I do so, I don't use the keyboard exclusively, nor do I only navigate with just the mouse or touchscreen alone. Intel's RealSense brand of 3D cameras add a new form of input: computer vision, including air gestures. And they appear to have been adopted by a broad swathe of hardware makers, implying that they'll form the foundation of a new generation of PCs.

I'm not seeing an obvious productivity niche for these new cameras. What I hope, however, is that they'll begin fitting into the gestalt of what I see as a new way of interacting with the PC: simultaneously typing with the keyboard, swiping with RealSense camera-enabled air gestures, "mousing" with Tobii eye tracking, and all the while simultaneously ordering the PC about with the new Nuance-enabled voice commands for Intel microprocessors that were announced at the show. 

5.) Connectivity is assumed
I spent my first Saturday in Las Vegas doing a slow burn: my T-Mobile phone consistently showed a strong signal, but I was unable to download anything on LTE. T-Mobile support advised me to turn off LTE data and to try again. And that worked, thank goodness.


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