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Why ‘Ambient Computing’ Is Just A Marketing Buzzword — For Now

An anonymous reader quotes Computerworld columnist Mike Elgan:
Ambient computing is real. It’s the next megatrend in computing…. To interact in an “ambient computing” context means to not care and not even necessarily know where exactly the devices are that you’re interacting with. When IoT devices and sensors are all around us, and artificial intelligence can understand human contexts for what’s happening and act accordingly and in our interests, then ambient computing will have arrived…

As with many technology revolutions, including augmented reality and AI, the buzzword ambient will precede the actual technology by many years. In fact, the marketing buzzword is suddenly here in full force. The actual technologies? Not so much. Instead, we’re on the brink of a revolution in what you might call “semi-ambient computing….”

Rumors are circulating that Google’s next smartphones, the Pixel 4 line, may come with Soli built in. I told you in January about Google’s Project Soli, which may be called the “Aware” sensor or feature in the Pixel 4 — again, according to unconfirmed rumors. Soli or Aware capability means the Pixel 4 may accept in-the-air hand gestures, such as “skip” and “silence” during music playback. The new Google “wave” is a hand gesture. The ability to wave away music with a hand gesture brings the smartphone into the semi-ambient computing era. It basically adds natural hand gestures to natural-language processing…. Google also briefly talked last year about a healthcare assistant called Dr. Liz., which was described by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt as an ambient computing virtual assistant for doctors. We’ll see if Google ever ships a Dr. Liz product…
Yes, ambient computing is real, and the Next Big Thing, showing up first in business, enterprises and healthcare. But for now, the term ambient computing will be misapplied. It’s a buzzword that will be stapled to every semi-ambient computing product and service that comes out over the next few years.

The article predicts we’ll eventually see ambient computing arriving in cars, grocery stores, smart glasses — and notes a Microsoft job listing for its “Ambient Computing & Robotics team” describing “the era where computer vision, AI-based cognition, and autonomous electro-mechanicals pervade the workplace.”

Computerworldd adds that Microsoft “was mocked for its ‘Clippy’ assistant, which the company released in 1996 as a way to provide friendly help for people using Microsoft Office. In the future, Microsoft may release what will essentially be a Clippy that works, because it will understand human context through AI.”


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