Saturday, April 6, 2013

Mobile evolution... What's next?

It's incredible what happened in the last 15 years of so. From big ugly noisy boxes we had on a desk at home, we arrived to a point where we can hold the world in our hand, everywhere and anywhere.

The "computer" transformed itself from a display, a keyboard and a mouse to a small beautiful device that it way more powerful, versatile and intuitive. Don't tell me what it can do, but show me how it looks!

We now have tablets and smartphones as any usual appliances like the TV, the telephone or the refrigerator. It's so common that owning such a device is not cool anymore. Apple and Google have solved a lot of issues and realized a lot of dreams in the last 5 years:

- Watch a movie, on the go
- Stay connected with our friends, all the time, anywhere
- Help us create masterpieces such as movies, pictures and new trends
- Play games somewhere else than on the TV
- Use our hands to interact with the softwares instead of relying on a keyboard and a mouse.

On those issues, mission accomplished!

What's left now? Have we reached a technological barrier? Internet access is available from any location. Device quality has improved to a point that the human eye cannot see the difference. The amount of information is much higher than what the human brain can process.

Currently, two new devices are being talked about: the "smart watch" and the "smart glasses". Those ideas are cool, but what are they trying to solve as issues.

- The smart watch provides a way to access information without having to reach for the smartphone in the back pocket. That's about it. It cannot be used to watch a movie or communicate by text. It can show you a small amount of information in a single display and maybe let you interact by voice with some online services. It's a smart phone that is really too small to be useful.

- The smart glasses (or any concept involving some wearable device in our visual field) are trying to solve the concept of having informations available directly into our brain. No keyboard, no mouse, no fingers! Just your voice and the visual feedback integrated into your own visual field: your eyes.

Computer evolution can be described as integrating data accessibility and processing into:
1 - Our home (2000, internet access and computers)
2 - Our lives (2007, mobile internet access an smartphones)
3 - Our personality (2012, social media)

The next step is to integrate data accessibility and processing into our thought process. To achieve this, the next device must make the information available before we even started thinking about what we will do next.

By combining what's around us, our preferences and the current action currently happening, a software could "guess" and "suggest" the next course of action that should be taken... That's a bit scary, but possible.

Let's say that you are in a grocery store and buying some stuff for dinner. The smart "unit" can notify you that you are near the chicken wings aisle and since they are currently on sale, why not invited some friends to watch the football game that is schedule in the evening on TV.

Instead of having an evening with your loved one, you will probably get the chicken wings and some tacos, and some beer, and some salsa. You will then post on Facebook, G+ and Twitter to all your friends that you will be hosting a Football night at home and who ever is available, to join you and your loved one.

There is nothing wrong with changing your plans. But for that change to happen, you have to be influenced before thinking about it. That's the next thing to achieve, integrate data accessibility and processing into our mind, into our thought process.

I doubt that the smart watch will be able to do this. On the other hand, the smart glasses may have a chance but it's a bit inconvenient if you don't need glasses in the first place.

So what would be best? A smart ear bud gently whispering into our ear? What about a "Star Trek" comm badge, able to display data on what ever surfaces in front of us?

The best would be a display that could be visible when needed. I'm not talking about some 3D images rotating in thin air, but more about the possibility of having a display that does not need a physical support to be visible.

If technology is able to produce some kind of display that does not need a physical surface, that will be the "next thing". Be it a hologram or an induced processed image directly into our brain...

Until then, let's try to keep our mind in control. (Yes darling, I'm coming...)

Patrick Balleux