For his last column in 2017, Walt Mossberg predicted that technology would fade into the background, and so-called “ambient computing” would become ubiquitous. Four years later, we are well on our way — but what exactly that term means for how computers will work and how we’ll live is still very much up in the air.
Many companies are working on some vision of ambient computing, but there’s nobody working harder to try to make the idea of ambient computing happen right now than Amazon’s head of hardware, Dave Limp. How he’s building that future today is a case study in how Big Tech confounds our preconceived notions of how progress works. We expected AI to look like HAL 9000. Instead, it looks a lot more like a Hammacher Schlemmer catalog.
At Amazon’s yearly lollapalooza of gadget announcements, the company typically announces literally dozens of new Alexa-connected devices. Releasing so many different devices at such a heady clip makes a certain kind of sense: if computers are meant to be all around us, Amazon needs to produce as many different kinds of computers as possible.