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Innovation in machine learning is really just getting started, and in 10 years self-driving cars and mixed-reality applications will lead to dramatic changes in society, Andreessen Horowitz's Benedict Evans told the a16z Summit recently.
Some things that we can look forward to: A city landscape completely altered by self-driving cars, and mixed-reality glasses that can act as substitutes for certain parts of human memory, he said.
Evans noted that autonomous driving is still in the "muddy pit" of foundation building, and nowhere near market-ready. But he envisioned a driverless car that barely resembled the cars of today — sharing little more than four wheels and a frame.
"You can completely reimagine what the car might be or what it even means to say a car or a bus or a truck if you don't have to have an internal combustion engine," Evans said.
If the car is driverless, why should the seats face forward? Why would it need a steering wheel? How could we optimize the space to be more productive while in transit?
And once computers take the wheel, there begins something of a snowball effect to change roads and eventually cities, Evans said.
"Computers don't drive like people drive, and so you will have a very different way of thinking about what the road is, what lanes are, what signaling is," Evans said. "If you change what roads are, you can kind of change what cities are."
Mixed reality, though closer to market than driverless cars, is still just scratching the surface of what it can ultimately do, according to Evans.
Mixed reality now mainly "adds stuff to the world," he said, placing virtual images in real-life settings.
"What gets more interesting is if the computer is looking at stuff, not just trying to find the flat surfaces," Evans said. "You can say, 'I left that thing that I was holding the other day on a table somewhere, where did I leave it?'"
Mixed-reality glasses could retain information you might otherwise forget, like the name on the badge of someone you recently met or the occupation of whoever you're talking to, Evans said.
"Those are questions that become possible to answer, and not in a kind of a science fiction way, but with basically all of the building blocks that we have today," he said.