One of Silicon Valley’s most influential venture capitalists has seen the future of wearable computers and it is Apple.
Two minutes transcribed from Talent, TechTrends, and Culture, the final a16z podcast of 2018:
Q: What’s the potential in wearables?
A: I think the really big one right now is audio. Audio is on the rise and particularly Apple with the AirPods has hit just an absolute home run. It’s one of the most deceptive things because it’s just like this little product and how important could it be? I think it’s tremendously important. Because it’s basically a voice in your ear any time you want it. [emphasis mine]
I’ll give you just one random example. There are these new kinds of YouTube celebrities and everybody’s wondering where do people get all this spare time to watch all these YouTube videos and listen to all these YouTube people in the tens and tens of millions. The answer is they’re at work. (audience laughs) They’ve got a bluetooth thing in their ear and they’ve got a hat and it’s ten hours on the forklift. Ten hours of Joe Rogan.
That’s a big deal. A voice in your ear at all times.
And then of course speech as a UI is rapidly on the rise. So I think audio is going to be titanically important.
The second thing I would nominate for wearables is the concept of sensors on the body. Here the Apple Watch is clearly out in the lead with what they’re doing with the heartbeat sensor. But I think we’ll have a full complement of medical-grade sensors on our bodies—in a way that we’ve chosen to—over the next five or 10 years. I think we’ll get to the point where we’ll be able to do things like predict heat attacks and strokes before they happen.
Talk about a killer app! “Beep. I’m going to have a heart attack in four hours. Maybe I should drive to the hospital.”
The survival rate for heart attack in the hospital is like 99%. The survival rate for heart attack at home is like 50%. There’s an opportunity for a massive increase in quality of life with the sensor platforms that people are going to have.
Then I think optics are coming. It’s going to be a long road, but I think AR and VR are both going to work and I think we’re going to have heads-up displays.
My take: That’s just the Apple part. The other 36 minutes are pretty good too.
If you don’t know who Andreessen is or why his opinion matters, here’s the first paragraph of his Wikipedia entry:
Marc Lowell Andreessen is an American entrepreneur, investor, and software engineer. He is the co-author of Mosaic, the first widely used Web browser; co-founder of Netscape; and co-founder and general partner of Silicon Valley venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. He founded and later sold the software company Opsware to Hewlett-Packard. Andreessen is also a co-founder of Ning, a company that provides a platform for social networking websites. He sits on the board of directors of Facebook, eBay, and Hewlett Packard Enterprise, among others. Andreessen was one of six inductees in the World Wide Web Hall of Fame announced at the First International Conference on the World-Wide Web in 1994