Becoming more human

How AI is creating a viable on-ramp for AR-enabled work

Today, we’re publishing a post from Garrett Houghton, who creates tutorials for Ben’s Bites.

AI might unlock the long-foretold promise of meaningful Augmented Reality (AR) for a broad spectrum of workers.

All of the big players in AI—Microsoft, Google, OpenAI—are showing signs of this eventuality, with new releases around voice, video, and AI agents providing a glimpse into what our future interactions with computers might look like.

Dan Shipper from Every noted from his conversation with Microsoft CTO Kevin Scott at the company’s Build conference last week that “agents are the future of software.” From Dan:

Scott noted that he thinks “agent” interactions—like the ones that Copilot enables—are the future of software. “One of the things that will probably happen is that you’re going to be using agents more than you’ll be using [apps or websites],” he said. 

Pair this take from Scott with OpenAI and Google’s newest releases of voice, video, and agent assistants from their GPT-4o announcement and I/O developer conference last week, respectively, and it’s clear that the leaders in AI are all focusing on developing new paradigms of human-computer interfaces, with AI at the core of these more nascent modalities of interaction.

From Sam Altman’s blog on the GPT-4o release:

The new voice (and video) mode is the best computer interface I’ve ever used. It feels like AI from the movies; and it’s still a bit surprising to me that it’s real. Getting to human-level response times and expressiveness turns out to be a big change.

The original ChatGPT showed a hint of what was possible with language interfaces; this new thing feels viscerally different. It is fast, smart, fun, natural, and helpful.

Talking to a computer has never felt really natural for me; now it does.

These advances are changing the hardware landscape too. New AI hardware startups, like Humane with its AI pin and Rabbit with its R1 device, even with their widely panned reviews, are showing early signals of what new human-computer experiences could look like—interacting with software via voice-first interfaces instead of touchscreens and real-time visuals instead of typed instruction.

This development direction towards what could be defined as AI-powered AR experiences feels like a good thing. Why? Because these advancements will make our interactions with computers and technology much more human

Rather than bending to the will of our keyboards and staring into the bright blue light of a screen eight hours a day, we’ll instruct our agentic AI assistants to complete complex tasks conversationally, a la JARVIS from Iron Man. We’ll be able to move around our physical space more freely while being as productive as we are today hunched over our desks.

This freedom, which in the realm of knowledge work, is often only afforded to executives and work managers who provide value via decision-making and oversight vs. execution, might be available to all levels of the corporate hierarchy in the future. It’s as Dan Shipper, once again, from Every, describes in his piece about the end of the knowledge economy: “In the age of AI, every maker becomes a manager.”

And this, to me, is what the nearish term, optimistic future of AR-enabled work—supported by AI-powered human-computer interaction capabilities—looks like. 

This ubiquitous instantiation of AR-enabled work won’t involve projecting digital objects into our three-dimensional space, but instead, it’ll be us effortlessly interacting with computers without screen dependency, having AI agents perform actions on our behalf with simple, conversational, and visual instruction, liberating large swaths of our work from laptops and desks to more active and collaborative spaces.

Once again, as Microsoft CTO Kevin Scott noted, we’ll “be using agents more than [we’ll] be using [apps or websites].” 

Apps and websites will still exist, but they will no longer be the primary user interface, instead, these UIs will be at a lower level in the stack, abstracted by AI, just like how web UIs abstract databases today. We’re already seeing this with ChatGPT and Perplexity abstracting away the need to scroll through Google search results.

Instead of optimizing websites for SEO, web and app developers will be optimizing their interfaces for AI readability and indexing.

This vector of AI advancement feels like a positive one, where technology conforms more to our human environment than we do to the computer environment. From this specific vantage, the future of work looks more utopic than dystopic.

But this isn’t an unbridled techno-utopic hype post. There’s a host of risks in the AI space, and not a lot of answers to them yet; however, these recent advancements in AI-powered human-computer interfaces do paint a picture of a future spent more present in our physical world than at office desks absorbed in screens—where we can move about our days in a more human way while still contributing meaningful work and accomplishing necessary day-to-day tasks in an online world.

And as someone who’s on a computer quite a bit, that’s a future I can get excited about.

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