Apple CEO Tim Cook ended Apple’s packed launch event today with the same Wayne Gretzky quote Steve Jobs dropped during the launch of the first iPhone: “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it’s been.” The iPhone X, Cook went on, does just that, showing where tech is headed over the next 5 to 10 years, a world in which real life is increasingly blended with its digital counterparts and vice versa.
Combined with a significant slate of announcements across the rest of the product line—a cellular-chipped Apple Watch, 4K Apple TV, and more—the showcase offered a helluva crystal ball to the future. With that in mind, we’ve taken the top five features Apple announced and fast-forwarded a few years to imagine how your world might change if Gretzky’s sage words hold true for Apple.
THE FEATURE: FACE ID
Introduced with the iPhone 5S, Apple’s fingerprint scanner meant a stranger had a 1 in 50,000 chance to unlock your phone. Announced today, the face scanner on the iPhone X—which features an always-on infrared net of 30,000 data points—improves that security to 1 in 1,000,000, Apple promises. Just swipe up on the now buttonless screen and your mug acts like your password. Got an evil twin? You’ll still need a password.
The future: Biometric everything. Why shouldn’t your car fire up with a smile, too? Who needs a door lock anymore? And imagine the contextual possibilities: If your mirror realizes you’re glum, maybe Siri pops up with some encouraging thoughts. One step further: What if a “Face Graph” emerged? Imagine being able to “share” your facial fingerprint with friends. Instead of simply swapping on Snapchat filters during conversations, your digital presence could be augmented no matter when and where you appear in pixels (nice hat, Sean). And better security, of course. Sci-fi movies have long hinged on fingerprint, hand, and eye-scan retina unlocking of safe rooms and inner sanctums. And Wesley Snipes knew how to disarm those simply enough: Hack off said body part and hold it up to the scanner. Unless you’re hanging out with Arya from Game of Thrones, you ought to be safe.
THE FEATURE: APPLE WATCH SERIES 3 WITH CELLULAR
It’s hard to explain just how difficult it is to pack the infrastructure for a cellular phone inside of a watch—without expanding the dimensions of the case more than the width of two pieces of paper. Apple shrunk the SIM card into a millimeters-square electronic version, and turned the face of the Apple Watch itself into an antenna. For runners, cyclists, and anyone who’d rather not tote their phone along during jaunts this is a game-changer.
The future: The Internet of things takes on new meaning when this tech is applied to everyday objects. Sure, you might not pay $400 for a cellphone-connected lamp, but everything eventually gets cheaper and shrinking the equipment means we might one day see a pair of Google Glasses or AirPods with similar technology. What’s more, miniaturizing this technology means Apple can devote more space inside of its phones for powerful chips, speaker units, and camera devices.
THE FEATURE: ENHANCED PORTRAIT MODE WITH LIGHTING AND VIGNETTE FILTERS
Portrait mode turned amateurs into auteurs when it was announced last year, and this year’s intelligent photo options will add even more control to the equation. Swipe left or right to choose between face lighting contours in real-time or to add to the artistic impact of your photos. Brute-force Instagram filters these are not—they adjust on the fly no matter what the light quality and what the background.
The future: Imagine combining facial recognition with the camera and being able to add in a friend across the country or erase your annoying friend in real-time from all of your photographs? “Surrrre, Craig, come on into our group photo!” Or what if people could actually become their own Bitmoji, assigning a unique identity that would appear in place of the real thing any time a photo with an iPhone or compatible device were snapped?
THE FEATURE: AUGMENTED REALITY FOR THIRD-PARTY DEVELOPERS
Games are the killer app for Apple’s aggressive AR push, but Apple’s demo of the Major League Baseball At Bat app during a game situation was special. Floating boxes (almost like The Sims) identify the players as they round each base, if the app is used inside of a baseball stadium.
The future: Adding that level of depth to real-world experiences, instead of just dropping a dragon onto a playground, will unlock new realms of functionality and data for spectators, coaches, and players alike. Imagine walking around a museum with data overlays next to each exhibit.
THE FEATURE: APPLE TV SPORTS
Anyone who has tried to track EPL games across networks knows how maddening it can be to have all of your options in one place. Apple Sports promises to bring everything together with one slick interface. This requires league passes with the various leagues, of course, but with cord-cutting ever more popular these à la carte big buys are the norm. They’ll even overlay the current score on screen so you can choose between your options.
The future: The complete and total death of cable TV.
By Matt Bean; images courtesy of Apple