AS THE MAN who single-handedly designed the first two computers sold by Apple – way back in the late 1970s and early 1980s – Steve Wozniak is uniquely equipped to predict how new technologies in the future will impact everyday life and how business is conducted. Right now, he’s drawn to speak-to-operate technologies that he believes will begin to rule how we function as a society. He is also excited about the possibilities for wearable technology, though he recognizes that continued innovation will be needed.
Wozniak – who often goes by the nickname The Woz and served as the keynote speaker for The ASI Show Orlando – touched on several leading-edge technologies and how they will affect our lives in an exclusive interview with ASI.
Q: How do you think technology in general will change our lives within the next five years or so?
Steve Wozniak: The trend in personal computers has been getting more and more personal, meaning working in human ways that we don’t have to think about steps to get the technology done. My favorite thing along those lines right now is speaking into the phone. You just speak into the phone to get directions or get questions answered, and I don’t have to think of a bunch of technological steps or procedures to get it done.
Q: Is this essentially where technology is going?
Steve Wozniak: Absolutely. It’s all about ease of use when it comes to technology. The easier it is to use, the better it will be for our lives. This was a big step that even the mouse-based Macintosh gave to us. You didn’t have to memorize anything because it was all there with a click of the mouse.
Q: How will voice recognition play into this?
Steve Wozniak: It’s all about understanding us and almost anything you think of in your head you don’t have to then think ‘what is the process on my machine to get it done’? You can just speak it, and I think that’s one of those one-way doors you don’t go back through again. Once we really have technology that can truly understand us and anticipate our needs – we’re close to that but we’re not there yet – then you’ll see the use of personal devices really explode to the point that they’re never out of our hands.
Q: What’s your view of the wearables technology market?
Steve Wozniak: I like it because I like to experiment with new things. I’m not really a fan of the smart watches, though. The Bluetooth aspect of it just kind of gets in the way. It goes back to my point earlier about technology making things easier. Does a smart watch actually do anything that the phone that’s already in my hand can’t do? Not really. Same with the fit bands. They’re functional, but you can have an app on your phone that tracks the same things. If I’m going to use a new technology, I want it to make a part of my life easier that isn’t already being made easier by something else. I’ll stick with my phone for those things.
Q: How about the Google Glass-type products that are out there?
Steve Wozniak: Now that’s cool. I’ve tested those kinds of things a few times, and there is definitely a cool factor to it. But I doubt it will get mass adoption because there’s just nothing there to justify the $1,500 price point. It’s cool, but it’s kind of odd to use. You can record video and take pictures with it and store things on it, but I just don’t think there are enough applications to everyday life to make it something that most consumers would want. Cool? Yes. But it’s not essential to everyday life. Phones do all those things too.
Q: What about something that will truly change the way our lives work?
Steve Wozniak: Automated cars. It will happen, and I know Google and also Tesla are trying to create cars that can drive by themselves. Think of how that’ll change life. It would be so different than anything we currently know, but the capabilities are coming.