Monday, July 8, 2013

The perfect communication device

We now live in an era where communication is as important as the air we breath. It is mandatory for each and everyone of us to be able to communicate with our peers wherever we are, whenever we are, however we are.

The telephone, the landline one, got humanity closer even if sceptics described Bell's invention as a thing of the devil. Our homes could be invaded by foreign voices and that was scary.

The cellphone freed us from the leach of landlines letting us have a chat with anyone at almost any location. It was bulky at first, but got smaller year after year.

Now, we have smartphones. Voice communication is mere thing of the past as we exchange ideas thru text, images and videos. We do not ask for their phone number anymore but for their Facebook/Twitter/Gmail/etc account. Ideas must be exchanged as fast as possible as our voice seems too slow to express our thoughts.

Geeks and scientist are dreaming of the day when no external devices will be required and our brains will be in direct contact with everyone. A bit like in the book "Hyperion" (A must for any SciFi lovers). Brain implants will eventually be the next big thing but until then, we still need to rely on sight, sound an touch.

The current implementation of a communication device thru smartphones is somewhat wrong. The culprits are games and movies... Go back to the time where a cellphone was used to talk and send some SMS... The device was used to communicate, to talk, to have a nice chat. They were getting smaller, had a great battery life and could fit in your small pocket.

Someone had the idea that watching a movie on a 2" display was good. Another one thought that gaming on a small portable device was great. After a few years and iterations, the cellphone got larger, heavier and lost battery lifetime at the profit of entertainment.

What would be the perfect communication device? Human race has been exchanging ideas with voice and text for thousands of years and it worked pretty well. It's fast and swift, does not require any talent or complex technics. Adding visual cues like images, emoticons or videos is in fact polluting the communication process. I'm not saying that we should stop sharing pics and movies. It's cool and fun! People can often discover their hidden talents as a photographer or as a movie director just by having an Instagram account.

Let's focus on communication: the act of two or more people interacting in a common goal.

When people are gathering together, they mostly talk. This is the "natural" way humans communicate. We don't usually show each other drawings or pictures to express our ideas. We do not sit in front of a display to show a video of what you are thinking. We just use our voice 99% of the time. With the voice communication process, facial expression and body language will enhance the ideas expressed making sure that our peers "will get it".

The perfect communication device should revolved around this concept. No more gaming status, new pictures notifications and world breaking news on each minute. Features would be:

- able to talk with one or more people in real time
- able to leave and reply voice messages for asynchronous chat
- able to get information from the net by voice command like weather, traffic, peers availability, etc...
- no keyboard thus freeing our hands
- no display thus freeing our eyes
- basic notification for incoming calls, thus freeing our mind.

Essentially, it would be a Siri like device, without any display, no games, no photos, no keyboard... A smart Bluetooth ear bud without Bluetooth.

I'm pretty sure that the current technology is able to create such a device. It would be used to call, ask questions and provide basic informations when you're on the go. Can it be a watch, a necklace or headphones? Surely.

Make it small with a long lasting battery lifetime! Make it smart so it can interact with our tablets or computers! Make it a communication device, not an entertainment system, a gaming console or a professional camera.

Star Trek got it right... Now "Make it so!"

Patrick Balleux