As the name suggests, smartphones possess smarter capabilities than mobile phones, providing then additional, now essential functions like web browsing, multimedia entertainment, games etc, much like mini-computers, only small enough to fit in your pocket. Smartphones appeared in the market close to two decades ago as the alternative to mobile phones which carry the primary function to enable only two-way communication by text or calls. The smartphones of today have other extended capabilities including in-built high-quality camera lenses, mobile apps that aid productivity, video-streaming as well as connectivitiy that enable millions to stay connected while on the go.
Development of smartphones in the near future, say in the next five to ten years? This is probably hard to predict with accuracy due to the fast pace tech evolutions have been riding on. Yet, as we await with anticipation, why not observe the existing trends and make some wild guesses on where smartphones are heading? You shall see below a couple of features for smartphones that may become the focal points for development in the near future.
1. Augmented Reality (AR)
The term ‘Augmented Reality‘ or AR when used in the context of computer technology refers to what we perceive through our senses (usually sight) enhanced through the use of computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics and GPS data. Simply put, AR makes available more information for us users by combining computer data to what we see in real life. Using the camera on your phone, you can point it somewhere ‘live’ to get an information overlay of where you can find the nearest cafes or dining places, for example.
Smartphones being portable serve as a good platform for AR to work. You can just whip out your phone to get the latest and relevant info for what you are searching for – information which you would otherwise have to call and ask or search online before heading out of Wi-Fi coverage. Most AR apps available now utilize some form of Global Positioning System (GPS) to facilitate location searches and this feature is likely to develop further over the next couple of years because of its potential. So why isn’t it in all smartphones yet?
It seems that the primary limiting factor is the limited recognition accuracy for ‘live’ views when we point our camera lens at places, buildings or even people. For AR to work seamlessly and reliably, the technology for recognizing places, things or people must be of a certain standard.
One example on the use of AR via smartphone can be found here. Expect more of such apps to be made available in the market in the years to come.
2. Flexible Screens
It may soon be the case where smartphones are able provide a large screen to watch and play your favorite movies and games while maintaining a pocketable size. Screens can be folded and unfolded, all thanks to Organic Light-Emitting Diode (OLED) technology. This paper-thin screen can even project from both sides of the screen, so you can show pictures or videos to your friend on one side while using the other as a control.
With such physical flexibility for smartphones, some companies even have plans on make wearable smartphones for the masses. For instance, Nokia is currently conducting research on their concept device, Morph (http://research.nokia.com/morph), which offers users the option of wearing it as a wrist watch or unfold it to use as a typical handset as and when required. It all depends on the task the users are engaging with.
3. Built-In Projector
If flexible screens are not enough to compensate for the small screens on smartphones why not integrate a projector within? Samsung Galaxy Beam was released back in the second half of 2010. It features a built-in DLP (Digital Light Projection) WVGA projector that is able to project at up to 50 inches in size at 15 lumens. What good will this do? Well, for one thing, future smartphones can actually be turned into an interactive gaming consoles without a need for a TV screen; all you’ll need is a flat surface. Instead of a physical controller, you can use your body or your voice. Similar to Kinect, a smart camera and a voice control function can capture your movements and voice commands to let you interact with objects and future-features-smart-phones on the projected screen.
Of course, you can imagine the drainage rate on your smartphone’s battery life and there’s also the other issue with luminance i.e. the amount of light it outputs. In-built projectors for smartphones must be small, and as the paradox sits: the smaller the projector is, the lesser light it will be able to give out. With better technology though, issues such as these will be addressed in time, making projectors a part of a new experience you can now engage with your smartphone.
4. Seamless Voice Control
Voice control has been receiving much attention since Siri made headlines. Voice control has existed in many earlier mobile phones even though the voice recognition function was crude at best. Research has been made to advance the development of voice control, but it has proved to be a paramount task.
Siri might have signaled a breakthrough to the way voice control and recognition programming ought to be made. Instead of recognizing commands via sound waves like most voice-recognition systems, Siri interprets diction and syntax in a similar fashion to how we recognize speech. Such Natural Language User Interfaces prove to be more effective and accurate.
The interest with voice control for computers and especially smartphones has always been there since the pioneer MIT research, “Put That There” studied different ways to communicate with computers in 1980. With the newly improved voice recognition app, Siri, as well as the greater capabilities of smartphones in the years to come, seamless voice control seems to be a viable goal. That, combined with gestures may bring interactivity to a new level for smartphones and their users.
5. 3D Screens & Holograms
Smartphones may have already reached the peak for their screen resolution with Apple’s ‘Retina Display‘, which actually provides a resolution that is sharper than what the human eye can perceive. Yet, even then, we still want more. Mobile companies are now moving from 2D to 3D for the smartphone screen. At present, we have a couple of 3D smartphones in the market, such as the LG Optimus 3D, the Motorola MT810 as well as the very first Samsung AMOLED 3D. So what happens after 3D?
Well, the next path could possibly be holographic projections. In essence, holographic projections will mean a combination of 3D and projections from the smartphone. According to Mobiledia Network, MasterImage 3D had previously showcased their ongoing development on a projection system that allows smartphones to display 3D holograms at the annual Mobile World Congress last February. If you want to talk about the potential of holographic projections in smartphones, it’s great. 3D displays can be integrated with elements of movements when it comes to user interactions with the phone. For example, you can resize your photos by using your hands to ‘pull’ or ‘compress’ the holographic photos that appear in front of you, move objects by ‘grabbing’ them from one place to another, etc. If you’rea fan of Tom Cruise’s ‘Minority Report’, this would be your dream come true.
all set for smartphones of the future?
It’s exciting to expect these features in our future smartphones but I wonder what it will take for us to get there. I’m talking about the price we may have to pay in exchange for such awesome features in our smartphones. Apart from that, there is also the other issues that can work up a storm: must our privacy be compromised for augmented reality to work at its fullest potential? Can marketers exploit our private details to obtain otherwise inaccessible data about us, our likes and preferences?
Also, with so much incorporated into our smartphones will the case of total dependence of the user on their mobile devices be a problem? Everyone is waiting to see what the smartphone industry can offer, and how the masses will react to the emergence of new and better smartphones along with the multitude of issues that come with each technology that is introduced to public use.