- Mark Zuckerberg/Facebook
- The world is focused on augmented reality right now when they should be paying more attention to machine learning. Both are exciting, but machine learning is the tech powering AR and will make our lives simpler and easier.
Everyone is focused on the wrong area of tech right now.
Augmented reality is arguably the hottest trend in the sector, and it’s one of the most exciting features of Apple’s recently announced iPhone X. Microsoft, Google, and Apple all have their own AR platforms and countless other companies have AR applications for those platforms already. It’s exciting stuff.
But, it’s all a distraction. In the future, AR will just be the surface level technology that covers the truly exciting technology underneath.
“AR is a very promising interface, as a way for people in interact with computers. Which is fantastic and important,” Aaron Shapiro, the CEO of the marketing firm Huge, told Business Insider. “But machine learning is a whole new way for computers to compute.”
Shapiro says that machine learning is the truly interesting technology for his firm. Marketers, including Huge, are working on AR applications right now, but ultimately will move to machine learning as well as development becomes easier. Shapiro illustrates this power of machine learning vs AR with a coffee shop example.
Huge Cafe is a real coffee shop in Atlanta that Shapiro’s company uses to test marketing ideas on real customers. He says that one day, customers won’t be ordering coffee in person. He said machine learning applications are going to realize that you are heading to the coffee shop based on factors like your direction, path and time of day. The applications are then going to place your coffee order, and automatically pay for you when you arrive and pick up your latte from the counter.
“If you think about today you can’t imagine having a service that is not mobile first, it’d just be odd,” Shapiro said. “Five years from it’s going to be just as odd using a service that is not smart and doesn’t continually adjust and adapt to how you use it and how it can better serve your needs. That’s the power of machine learning.”
If you need more evidence of machine learning’s importance to the future of tech, just look behind the scenes at the biggest tech firms.
Apple’s face recognition technology in the iPhone X was trained using machine learning, and the new processor powering the phone has a dedicated chip built in that makes machine learning applications on the phone faster than previous iterations.
Google has recently refocused the entire company on AI. “In an AI first world, we are rethinking all our products, and applying machine learning and AI to solve user problems,” Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai said at the company’s developer conference earlier this year.
Shapiro said that the best uses of AR in the future aren’t standalone apps, but the integration of AR into existing apps that will take advantage of machine learning. He said the best examples of this are furniture store apps that let you place virtual furniture in your home or apps like the one his company is working on with Lowe’s which will let you measure complicated objects in your home instantly by pointing your phone’s camera at them. Both of these applications use AR as a way to visually display results generated by the complicated machine learning algorithms that are working to process the images and measure and scale objects.
Companies with AR platforms stand to benefit the most from the technology, Shapiro said. Apple and Google both have developer platforms for AR, and large install bases ready to play and test new AR applications. Companies like Nvidia, Google, and AMD could benefit from the machine learning technology boom. Each of those companies makes chips that speed up the training of machine learning systems and could see an increase in demand as more companies start developing their own machine learning systems.
“I love technology that makes things simple and more powerful for people,” Shapiro said. “[Machine learning] is another step function ahead for tremendous simplicity and removal of friction in people’s day to day lives.”