We call them phones but of course that’s a convenient nonsense. Today’s smart-phones are powerful pocket computers.
Twenty years ago, computers were huge lumpy things that sat on (and under!) your desk. Even the ‘laptops’ were barely luggable. And of course, they had a fraction of the processing power and storage capacity of the simplest smartphone available today. ‘Nuff said.
The interesting question is, what will our ICT (informations and communications technology) gear look like in another twenty years?
Glad you asked.
The technology itself seems pretty obvious… famous last words. In my (here goes the first plug) novel, INTERVENTION, I imagine gear which is entirely build-able with only small improvements in existing technology.
My characters wear ‘phones’ which consist of distributed hardware…
specs – transparent displays built in to glasses, allowing complete immersion in opaque mode or augmented reality where icons and info float around in the visual field. This technology is already an engineering reality and is only a step or two away from affordability. Samsung has demonstrated big transparent OLED window displays and TDK has apparently started mass producing light, 2.4 inch transparent displays for mobile phones, but the slickest presentation of the technology goes to Vuzix Smart Glasses which, they claim, will start shipping in 2012.
neckbands – throat mics are a relatively mature technology, allowing special forces types to whisper to each other whilst blowing things up and shooting bad guys, but truly silent subvocalisation microphones have been ‘in development’ for some time – which indicates there are stumbling blocks. But then again, it took a while for voice recognition to get from the early (completely useless) implementations to Apple’s Siri. The basics have been demonstrated though, using a sensor able to detect the nerve signals which control muscles, sensitive enough to pick up activity without the need for audible vocalisation.
earpieces – in both ears providing quasi-directional hearing and allowing, perhaps enhancing, ambient sounds rather than suppressing natural hearing. Really were just talking about the next generation of bluetooth headsets. I assume that there will be some design improvement though, perhaps like hybratech’s O.R.B.?
gesture cuffs - accelerometers like those in your iPhone or Wii remote could keep track of where your wrists are. Direct muscle interface neurological sensors like Ambient’s will be able to calculate exactly what each finger is doing.
So imagine your iPad touch screen, only in 3D… oh, and without the screen. The icons and other objects you manipulate with your gestures will only be visible to you through your specs… unless of course you share your virtual view with a friend.
Naturally, the gear will use supercapacitor materials rather than separate batteries to store power, kinetic charging, low power graphene rather than silicone microprocessors (maybe for specs screens to – as graphene is transparent), and skin conductance as well as wifi so all the gear can communicate using minimum power and with maximum security.
So… what will it be like to use this gear (here comes another plug)? Read INTERVENTION for my take on the experience.