Narain Jashanmal

apple

I orginally posted this here in September 2022, speculating that Apple might announce their VR headset at their fall event, ahead of the holiday shopping season. They didn’t, but the rumor mill is cranking overtime that they will announce it at WWDC in June.

Reposting as nothing much has changed since last fall.

Screenshot 2022-09-03 at 11.10.46.png

With the fall Apple (iPhone) event almost upon us, time to speculate if there'll be a “One more thing...” moment.

Apple does things their own way and speculation around a pair of Apple AR/VR glasses has been rampant, but it's remained unclear if, when, how and with what type of product they'd enter the market.

Still, it's interesting to consider the current general personal computing context that could lead Apple to such a move.

Everyone has a phone that connects to the internet.

You can do pretty much everything you want to (and things you didn't even know you wanted to) with that phone though, to riff on Gibson's oft quoted maxim, what you can do on your phone isn't evenly distributed, yet.

There's been some playing around with phone form factors from SamsungHuaweiMicrosoft and Xiaomi but...do you own one of these? Does anyone you know?

There are similar experiments with laptops by folks like Asus and Lenovo (Bjarke Ingels uses one!) but...ditto (other than Bjarke, of course).  Most people are just really happy that Apple brought back MagSafe, removed fans and gave us insanely good battery life.

We've got computers for our desks, our laps, our hands, our wrists, our ears, other, uh, parts of our body, our cars (soft of); but...what about for our faces?

For VR, Meta (fka Facebook) has been the leader with the Quest (née Oculus) series, with the current Quest 2 being the most sold VR headset ever, by a sizeable margin. SteamDPVR and Vive (aka HTC) have participated in the hardware space for a while, with Steam being prominent in VR software. Pico(aka ByteDance, parent company of TikTok), has started to expand outside China, which has led to recent gains in market share (InsiderCounterpoint). Relative to phones, VR hardware remains a small market with unit sales in the double digit millions.

Smart glasses, which incorporate some combination of outward facing cameras, microphones and speakers into glasses, have been around for a while. Snap was early to market with Spectacles, now in their third generation. Spectacles have cameras and microphones, but no speakers, so they can be used to capture photos and video, but not to take calls or listen to audio. Amazon Echo Framesand Aether take a different direction, featuring a microphone and speakers, but no cameras, they enable you to take phone calls give instructions to a voice assistant and listen to audio. Ray-Ban Stories, created in partnership with Meta, combine cameras, microphones and speakers into the only smart glasses that do it all. Sales info is hard to come by, but this article about the sales of Snap Spectacles up to 2021 indicate that – so far – it's a much smaller market than VR, in the high hundreds of thousands, low millions of units overall.

AR glasses, which overlay digital information onto the physical world have been a tough proposition going all the way back to Google Glass, the challenges of which are well documented. Snap have been working on next-gen Spectaclesthat feature AR, but with their recent restructuring it's unclear how much further investment this project will get or even if a consumer version of these will ever come to market. Recently, NrealLenovo and Vive have launched AR glasses that tether, either physically or wirelessly, to a computer or phone – which do the heavy lifting – and are focused on more narrow use-cases around entertainment, wellness and productivity, rather than being self-contained, general purpose computing devices.

It's been even tougher for MR glasses, which don't just overlay digital objects on to the physical world, but enable those digital objects to interact with the physical world. Magic Leap and Microsoft HoloLens are the canonical examples here. Neither have made it to market as viable consumer products.

This landscape raises a bunch of interesting opportunities and questions for Apple. As noted above, there's been plenty of experimentation in the space of face computers, and Meta has carved out a position for themselves to an extent that no one else has. But, is the Quest today's equivalent of Nokia or Blackberry and  Glass the iPhone? Or is Quest more like Sonos and  Glass the original HomePod?

The general speculation is that Apple will do a full-blown, high-end headset, in a more glasses-like form factor that is AR focused or combines AR and VR.

Given Apple's historically conservative approach to new categories, this would seem to go beyond the realm of speculation into that of fantasy. Apple tends to constrain the capabilities of their first-gen hardware, with a focus on getting the form factor and user experience right, while intentionally limiting the features (to the ones people most likely to care about) in order to have a greater success of consumer adoption.

First-gen AirPods are a good example, they didn't have noise-cancellation, came in only one shape and color and lacked tactile volume controls. What they did feature was a competitive price point, seamless pairing, stable connection, good sound and very good battery life. These initial trade-offs, combined with the Beats acquisition, have helped Apple become a market leader in headphones.

Taking cues from their approach to AirPods, it's safer to bet that  Glass will be something more akin to the Nreal Air or Vive Flow than to the next-gen Snap Spectacles, original Magic Leap or forthcoming Meta headset. A companion device, that tethers either to a Mac or iPhone (probably the latter, wirelessly; maybe the former as well, physically, for development) that's focused on entertainment ( TV, Game Center) and wellness ( Fitness+). If that's what it is, it doesn't need necessarily need cameras which lowers both the cost of materials and simplifies the computational overhead. Even without cameras on the headset itself, there is the opportunity to use the iPhone camera (similar to the way the Watch does) and ARKit overlays from there, though addressing latency (if wirelessly tethered) is non-trivial.

Disclaimer: I worked at Meta from 2014 – 2022, in Reality Labs from 2021 – 2022. Whatever I've written here is based on speculation and/or publicly available info.

#technology #hardware #oculus #apple #meta #vr

Source: Benedict Evans Newsletter No. 472

My preferred order for reading books is audio > ebook > paperback > hardback.

(Except for art and photography books, in which the order is hardback > ebook > paperback.)

Reading an audiobook of course means listening to it and debates abound whether we retain information better or worse if one reads a text or listens to it being read (examples here and here).

But, as ChatGPT says, learning styles vary and, like with many things, practice and repetition build optimal habits to get the most out of an experience.

In 2022 I read 45 audiobooks (full list at the bottom of this post).

The number of books isn’t the thing to anchor on here – listening to articles vs reading them will have a similar effect – rather the habit I’ve found most effective to both parse and retain information is reading several books on the same topic in clusters.

This has two benefits:

  1. You listen to variations of the same data, research and anecdotes.

  2. You hear different points of view on a given topic.

Several distinct topic clusters emerge in the list of books:

  1. Financial speculation and the irrational behavior that drives it. This was a timely topic to go deep on, following the crypto and NFT collapse. Spoiler alert: it’s predictable human behavior that causes these endlessly repeated cycles of boom and bust, divorced from the underlying asset class, which in many cases (see: Beanie Babies, NFTs) have no intrinsic value.

  2. Inclusive product design. An important and under invested in area.

  3. Product management and design at Apple. For a company that has a reputation for secrecy there’s more information available on this topic about Apple than pretty much any other company.

  4. Financial (mis)adventures of ultra high net worth individuals and the structures that enable them. An evergreen topic.

  5. Frameworks for thinking. Mental models on how to approach problem solving.

The main way I find subsequent books is via references in a current book. In most cases it leads to books that go deeper into a topic, like branching roots, but sometimes it takes you to whole new tree.

This was the case with Strangers to Ourselves, by Rachel Aviv, which was referred to by Tom Vanderbilt in You May Also Like. It’s not a book I would’ve otherwise found my way to but I’m very glad Tom led me to it as it’s a powerful and moving book.

Looking at this list, another thing that stands out is that there’s only one novel (Red Pill by Hari Kunzru, which is excellent).

Novels are almost never read by their authors. Red Pill is and it’s all the better for it. Voiceover actors tend to act out novels, altering their voices for different characters and I find it very distracting. Hari doesn’t do this (or at least I don’t remember him doing it).

While not all non-fiction books are read by their authors, there’s a greater prevalence and the voiceover actors who read non-fiction books either don’t act them out or when they do, do so subtly.

This is one thing that makes Apple’s announcement about AI audiobooks interesting. Will these AI readers act? If so, will it be subtle? What models were used to train the voices? How do they handle non-Western/Anglo-Saxon names and words? Can an author train an AI to read their books so that it sounds like them?

I’m intrigued to try audiobooks read by AI readers and also think this is bridges a valuable gap by potentially creating audiobooks of the many books that previous didn’t have audio editions, which is a very welcome development.

Full list of books in reverse chronological order (links go to Apple Books or Audibooks.com):

  1. Strangers to Ourselves by Rachel Aviv

  2. You May Also Like by Tom Vanderbilt

  3. A Short History of Financial Euphoria by J.K. Galbraith

  4. Money Mania by Bob Swarup

  5. Irrational Exuberance by Robert J. Shiller

  6. The Great Beanie Baby Bubble by Zac Bissonnette

  7. Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman

  8. Move Fast and Break Things by Jonathan Taplin

  9. Cinema Speculation by Quentin Tarantino

  10. When Women Lead by Julia Boorstin

  11. Like, Comment, Subscribe by Mark Bergen

  12. Status and Culture by W. David Marx

  13. The Laws of Simplicity by John Maeda

  14. Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O’Neil

  15. Dark Horse by Todd Rose & Ogi Ogas

  16. Technically Wrong by Sara Wachter-Boettcher

  17. Mismatch by Kat Holmes

  18. Imaginable by Jane McGonigal

  19. How Design Makes the World by Scott Berkun

  20. The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz

  21. The New Breed by Kate Darling

  22. Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely

  23. Loved by Martina Lauchengco

  24. Change by Design by Tim Brown

  25. Sprint by Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky & Braden Kowitz

  26. User Story Mapping by Jeff Patton & Peter Economy

  27. Start with Why by Simon Sinek

  28. After Steve by Tripp Mickle

  29. Inspired by Marty Cagan

  30. Insanely Simple by Ken Segall

  31. Creative Selection by Ken Kocienda

  32. Red Pill by Hari Kunzru

  33. Build by Tony Fadell

  34. Lucifer’s Banker Uncensored by Bradley C. Birkenfeld

  35. Butler to the World by Oliver Bullough

  36. Moneyland by Oliver Bullough

  37. Don’t Believe a Word by David Shariatmadari

  38. Reality+ by David J. Chalmers

  39. Thinking in Bets by Annie Duke

  40. Thinking in Systems by Donella Meadows

  41. The Scout Mindset by Julia Galef

  42. How to Turn Down a Billion Dollars by Billy Gallagher

  43. Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman

  44. The Precipice by Toby Ord

  45. The Alignment Problem by Brian Christian

#reading #amazon #books #apple #ideas #ai