LAS VEGAS - One message that's clear from attending the International Consumer Electronics Show here: We aren't living in a three-screen world anymore.
That outdated vision of information technology believed that consumers would watch video content on a big-screen TV, work on a desktop or laptop computers, and communicate with an information-enhanced mobile phone.
The new vision has been dubbed the "Internet of Things." In it, humans don't need to sit and stare at computer screens. Computing gadgets from watches to glasses to sensors can understand and even look after the needs of a human.
The perennial advancing capability of information technology owes its progress to Moore's Law. It is the proposition that computing power doubles every 18 months. This "law" was named after Gordon Moore, the co-founder of microprocessor giant Intel in Silicon Valley, and who penned his prediction 50 years ago this April in Electronics magazine. It is responsible for the relentless pace of change that births new technologies as well as new ways for humans to interact with technology, every few years.
The last major sea-change has been the incredible rise of the smart phone and the tablet. Powered by Apple's iPhone and iPad, and accelerated by competition with South Korean electronics giant Samsung and others, these technologies have wrought a paradigm shift and changed the expectations that consumers need to be tethered to a computer to do productive information work.
The increasing size of smart phone screens, and the blending of tablets and phones, has led to a world in which more people now read news, shop and engage with the Internet through a handheld device than through a computer.
Smart phones and tablets will continue their dominant role for the near future. But the next transformation that is very visible at the 150,000-attendee CES is the "Internet of Things." It's already brought computing power into everyday objects like lightbulbs, baby bottles and everywhere cameras.
In a keynote address kicking off the show, Samsung CEO Boo-Keun Yoon addressed the theme of "Unlocking the infinite possibilities of the Internet of Things."
The three elements driving this phase are the existence of digital sensors in almost every durable consumer product, the information processing power embedded in these electronics and connectivity between devices.
Among Yoon's examples were TVs that sense whether a person is watching them, and pause when you walk out of the room; lights that dim and shades that close when it gets hotter and brighter; cars the "recognize" dangerous driving conditions and apply brakes in an emergency; and smart digital signage with customized video advertisements.
"This is not the distant future," said Yoon. Although he identified a number of potential roadblocks — including the need for rival camps to make their technologies interoperable — he said matter-of-factly: "All of this is possible."
Some of us have gotten so wedded to the notion that we need to look at a screen in order to be using a "computer" that it may be hard to anticipate the possibilities unleased by new interfaces and new ways of interacting with computing-power.
At CES2015, no one here is displaying Google Glass, the experimental technology that the search engine giant released 18 months ago with much fanfare. Glass has still never been introduced as a commercial product, and part of the reason is that "Google trotted it out as an early 'beta' product that was somewhat functional but finicky and literally in your face," writes MIT Technology Review.
But others like Sony are working on — and commercially introducing — a range of eyeglass-like technology that enable industrial workers to inventory and have access to step-by-step video repair instructions, right in front of their eyes.
Other major application in the world of wearable computing include watches and wristbands that measure pulse, blood pressure, body fat and a range of medical conditions. By automating a range of mobile health applications, these digital tools set the stage for helping dramatically cut costs out of the health care economy.
I'm still waiting for greater refinements to mouse-free technology. One tool already on the market is a small box by Leap Motion. It takes the place of an on-screen cursor, allowing a computer user to direct on-screen motion using hand and finger movement instead of a keyboard.Comment on this story
But perhaps the greatest hidden progress in the relationship between humans and machines are continuing advances in voice-recognition technology. Apple's virtual digital assistant Siri has certainly been the butt of countless jokes. But for the visually-impaired, the ability to have a smart phone read the contents of web pages and take exceptionally good dictation is priceless.
All of these are signals to me that remote controls, touch typists, and even the swiping of fingers on tablets need not be permanent features of the way that humans interact with machines.