On September 12, Apple announced a new generation of iPhone: the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. And it’s worth taking notice. It ignites what Shel Israel and Robert Scoble refer to as “The Fourth Transformation,” which will happen faster than the previous three technological leaps forward. What is “The Fourth Transformation” exactly? It’s putting augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence (AI) in the palm of your hand. And it’s about to change everything.
Then vs. Now: The Four Transformations
1. Giant Mainframes to Personal Computers
The first transformation started in the 70s when we began to see desktop computers transform from giant mainframes that took teams of people to operate and massive clean rooms down to desktop versions. It was the first time that individuals could afford a personal computer, and it changed offices everywhere. This first transformation took most of the 70s and into the 80s to widely proliferate.
2. GUI & Macintosh
The second transformation took root with the Graphical User Interface (GUI) with the Apple Macintosh in 1984. While today this may seem rather unsubstantial, at the time it was groundbreaking. This transformation enabled us to envision things like the Internet, and it disrupted major software companies who failed to see it happen. Heard of WordPerfect or VisiCalc? The companies that developed that software during the first transformation were considered two of the largest software developers. Now they are gone.
3. The iPhone
The third transformation started in 2007 in Cupertino, California, where Steve Jobs announced a revolutionary new product that we all have grown to know and love: the iPhone. Think about this for a moment. Ten years ago, what was your chief mode of communicating with others? What was your primary device for consuming news? It is hard to remember the landscape 10 years ago. The big players in mobile devices were Blackberry and Nokia. Where are they today? No longer at the top of the list. In fact, Blackberry declared bankruptcy in 2013.
That is the nature of transformations: a thorough or dramatic change in form or appearance. Failing to recognize and act upon transformations can end in disastrous results. Just ask Blockbuster, which went bankrupt in 2010. At one time, they were in a position to buy Netflix. Likewise, Borders did not perceive a threat from Amazon and ultimately declared bankruptcy in 2011. Polaroid felt that people would always want to have physical photos, and they went bankrupt in 2001. There are so many similar stories of how failing to plan for transformations end in cautionary tales.
4. Augmented Reality & AI
So let’s talk about the fourth transformation that is fast approaching and how Apple, while not necessarily the innovator of the fourth transformation, just fired the gun to start the race. The first three transformations have been about interacting with computers; the fourth is about the experience. To understand it, it’s important to go over a brief history and define what augmented reality really is. (Stay tuned for part 2 coming soon, which will discuss how artificial intelligence has shifted over the years and how, combined with AR, it will change the world.)
I hope, by now, you’ve heard of two consumer products that have come out in the past year: the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive. The Oculus and Vive are both virtual reality (VR) devices. Virtual reality is defined as the “computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional image or environment that can be interacted with in a seemingly real or physical way by a person using special electronic equipment, such as a helmet with a screen inside or gloves fitted with sensors.” Virtual reality has been around for decades. But it’s taken this long for the technology to finally catch up to the dream. In fact, the mobile phone played a large part in advancing the technology with high-resolution screens and multi-core processors fitting in your pocket.
But what about augmented reality? That involves taking a computer-generated object and superimposing it over the the user’s view of the real world, like Heads-Up Displays that exist in fighter pilot cockpits. Only you won’t need a billion-dollar aircraft and million-dollar helmet to use AR. Odds are you have used it already. Ever heard of a game called Pokemon Go? If you haven’t tried it, do it now. That was the proving ground for AR. It was one of the first mass-consumed AR apps in the marketplace, and all you needed to power it was your phone. It was amazing and fun, and it illustrated what’s possible by simply using a phone with a camera and some programming. Now the launch of the new iPhone takes what’s possible with Pokemon Go and enhances the capabilities x 1000.
In fact, this is the first mass market device that will have full AR capabilities designed into it. Developers have already been designing software to support the iPhone ARKit since June.
Augmented Reality: Big Future & Big Players
AR has been in development for the past few years, and a lot of the big platform players are betting on its future.
- Microsoft - Microsoft has released developer versions of the Hololens, which is a true-stand alone AR device. It is a pair of glasses with a built-in computer that projects computer-generated information over the real world.
- Google - Google Glass, while in some circles may be considered a failure, was just ahead of its time.
- Magic Leap - This stealth company has raised over a billion dollars in funding. While they have enforced a strict NDA for the lucky few who have seen their technology, what is being said is nothing short of miraculous. In fact, we’ve learned they will be doing a limited release within the next six months.
- Apple - And of course, Apple has been buying up VR and AR technologies for the past few years as well. With their latest launch, they are clearly betting big on the future of AR.
But How Does It Affect Your Business?
Welcome to the new status quo within the next 5 - 8 years. Personally, I’ve seen a lot of organizations slow to rise to the mobile landscape. Failure to acknowledge this transformation will set them back even further. And if that applies to you, then you need to start looking at how you can accelerate past mobile and into the world of AI and AR. If you’re already in a solid position with your mobile strategy, then you need to start developing your strategy for this next transformation now.
6 Ways to Prepare for Tomorrow
Here are some things you can do today to get ready:
1. Set up your organization for a digital transformation. First and foremost, this is by far one of the hardest things to achieve overall. But it will set you up for the most success.
- Change management 101: this needs to be managed from the top down. You need to get the full support and buy-in from executive leadership first.
- Find an organization that can support and help define what a digital transformation looks like within your organization.
2. Get your hands on this technology and envision what is possible. I can’t urge this enough. If you want to know what the future looks like, you need to see it for yourself.
- Become a champion within your organization and recruit others.
- Show and tell. Go out and buy some of the AR and VR dev kits out there, and show them to anyone who will listen.
3. Think differently. For every large organization that’s the top player in their industry, there are 10 start-ups looking to disrupt them. And they will.
- Think and act like a start-up.
- Set up a “skunkworks” team in your organization that is able to move fast without all the bureaucracy. Encourage them that it is ok to fail, but fail fast. Their task is to learn all the things that won’t work and zero in on the one that will.
4. Learn, learn and learn some more.
- Research what the latest technology is and who’s using it.
- Go out and visit companies that are using AR and AI in their day-to-day operations. They already exist today.
- Be a teacher within your organization, never stop learning and always keep sharing that knowledge with others.
5. Become customer-centric.
- If you’re already pretty customer-centric, ask what more you can be doing. Get out, and meet with your customers. Ask them to participate with you in testing new things.
- Spend time observing what your customers do. How do they spend a day interacting with your organization? Ask them the hard questions, and share that throughout your organization.
6. Call us. Ultimately your organization needs to own the transformation, but we can help.
And remember, check back soon for part 2 to dive deeper into artificial intelligence and how it will play a critical role in the fourth transformation.