After the iPhone

 

Apple fans have eagerly awaited February 2nd to get their hands on the tech giant’s latest gadget, a new augmented-reality headset called the Vision Pro.

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Tim Cook, Apple’s boss, has described trying the Vision Pro as an “aha moment”. “You only have a few of those in your lifetime,” he added.
 
Aha or not, the Vision Pro is part of a trend. In September techies got excited about a new pair of smart glasses made by Meta, Facebook’s parent company, and Ray-Ban, an eyewear brand. The spectacles are controlled by voice and can play music, send texts and film everything you see.
 
Two months later Humane, a startup founded by former Apple executives, launched the Pin, a brooch with which users interact by talking and gesticulating. In January the r1, a voice-controlled gizmo half the size of a smartphone, enthralled attendees at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Its maker, a startup called Rabbit, has sold nearly 100,000.
 
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What all these devices have in common is that they mostly do away with screens, keyboards and mice. Thanks to “generative” artificial intelligence (AI), computers are getting good at listening to, reading and watching stuff—and understanding it. That means hardware can be controlled by voice, gesture or image rather than touch. AI is thus enabling new “form factors”—tech-speak for gadgets in new shapes and sizes, just as the iPhone looked different from older handsets.
 
Silicon Valley’s elite are cheering on the potential shift. They believe AI could create a new market for consumer hardware, replacing the smartphone as everyone’s essential device. Sam Altman, boss of OpenAI, the startup behind ChatGPT, is reportedly in talks to start a firm with Jony Ive, former head of design at Apple, to make a gadget purpose-built for AI.
 
Satya Nadella, chief executive of Microsoft, an AI-ambitious tech titan, recently said that “once you have a new interface…new hardware is also possible.”
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