Mobile Evolution: “Robocop-esque”

evolutionofmobileThis Wednesday, I’ll be speaking on a panel at ThinkLA. I’ll be presenting a few short slides on the evolution of mobile specific to the mobile web and applications. Though the panel should be interesting, the evolution of mobile is a much broader topic – one that’s inspired delving into mobile’s future relating to user input and output.

Ok, that last bit sounded boring. Here’s a video of the sixth sense concept from MIT, which presents some of these concepts in a much more interesting manner. The system MIT designed uses a projector to deliver information, and a camera to input controls. This could be the future evolution of mobile input and output – from keypads and screens to projectors and cameras.

Projectors though…they eat up a lot of energy. Also, phones are a pretty personal communications device – while it could be neat to project content for friends to see, most use of a phone is “for user’s eyes only.” Projectors aren’t particularly private, and the world will be a confusing place if everyone is projecting information relevant to themselves onto “shared attention” objects (imagine how this would influence museum tours). Also, hanging a phone unit around my neck doesn’t look terribly practical.

On the other hand, OLED – that’s a fairly energy efficient display method, lightweight and capable of high quality images. Anyone remember the OLED glasses from Sony’s keynote at CES this year? The ones that provide high quality video overlaid on transparent glasses? All those glasses need are a camera on the bridge of the nose, and a connection to the phone sitting in my pocket. While it’s unlikely to see this sort of design in the current generation of phones, the iPhone v3.0 coming out in June shows Apple is thinking big about the potential for third party hardware interacting with their device. We might be able to expect something like this by iPhone v5.0.

As for the consumer behavior, the question of “will people really wear silly glasses on their faces for this sort of augmented reality?” must be addressed. This would not be the first technology to jump from peoples’ pockets to permanent wear. At one time, before the cell phone, there were devices worn on the wrist called ‘watches’ that were used to tell time. Almost everyone wore one – at the time, they were considered modern day necessities. But before landing on wrists, they existed as “pocket watches.” I expect cell phones to make a similar leap, only this time from the pocket to headwear. Heck, we’ve already got Bluetooth headsets sitting up there.