Will.i.am is perhaps best known as a musician and lead member of the Black Eyed Peas, but he's also working to make a name for himself in tech.
The singer, songwriter and producer has dabbled in wearables with products like the Puls smartband and the i.am+ Dial smartwatch, and in 2015 teamed up with Gucci to create a luxury phone-free smart band, which never materialized. He's also launched products like a triangular backpack with speakers and a Foto.sosho iPhone case, and is the founder of i.am+, an AI-centered tech company.
Now, Will.i.am is looking toward the future -- one he believes will be shaped by tech like augmented and virtual reality. Devices like glasses will augment our world and free up our hands, he says, and technology will be more seamless. He imagines that musicians 100 years from now will have to do more than just write and perform songs. They'll make VR experiences that audiences can virtually transport to.
Will.i.am was pensive and enthusiastic about the future of tech when I spoke to him recently at Accenture's innovation hub at Salesforce Tower in San Francisco. "The future of entertainment is VR and AR," he said. "You're creating worlds in VR and enriching environments with AR. I can't wait for that to be the norm in our entertainment industry."
Ten years from now, he predicts, we won't be staring at screens. Instead, sleek devices will show content right in front of our faces, eliminating the need for bulky gear resembling a helmet.
That's not to say Will.i.am is looking to create those products himself. His current passion is in artificial intelligence and natural language. His company i.am+ is focused on getting its AI system to be more efficient so that when people talk to a voice assistant, their search takes on a more conversational tone.
Will.i.am doesn't see his passion for music and tech as disparate. In fact, if more people knew how creative tech really is, more kids would want to be scientists and engineers, he says.
"It's the most creative industry in society today," he told me. "Tech is everything. Music is tech. Our industry was founded on technology. If we saw music and tech as the same and not separate, we wouldn't have this gap of [tech] jobs that are unfilled."