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Paul Merrell

Smartphone innovation: Where we're going next (Smartphones Unlocked) | Dialed In - CNET... - 0 views

  • With his shaggy, sandy blond hair and a 5-o'clock shadow, Mark Rolston, the creative director for Frog Design, has studied technology for the better part of two decades. As he sees it, smartphones are just about out of evolutionary advances. Sure, form factors and materials might alter as manufacturers grasp for differentiating design, but in terms of innovative leaps, Rolston says, "we're at the end of gross innovation for smartphones." That isn't to say smartphones are dead or obsolete. Just the contrary. As Rolston and other future thinkers who study the mobile space conclude, smartphones will become increasingly impactful in interacting with our surrounding world, but more as one smaller piece of a much large, interconnected puzzle abuzz with data transfer and information. We'll certainly see more crazy camera software and NFC features everywhere, but there's much, much more to look forward to besides.
  • You may have never given two thoughts to the sensors that come on you smartphone. They don't mind. They're still there anyway, computing data on your phone's movement and speed, rotation, and lighting conditions. These under-appreciated components -- the gyroscope, accelerometer, magnetometer, and so forth -- are starting to get more friends in the neighborhood. Samsung, for instance, slipped pressure, temperature, and humidity sniffers into the Galaxy S4. They may not be the sexiest feature in your phone, but in the future, sensors like accelerometers will be able to collect and report much more detailed information.
  • If you've made it here, you'll start seeing a general theme: in the forward-looking smartphone environment of our future, our devices are anything but isolated. Instead, smartphones will come with more components and communications tools to interact more than ever before with people and other devices. We already see some communication with Wi-Fi Direct, Bluetooth, and NFC communications protocols, plus newcomers like the Miracast standard. In short, the kind of innovation we see in the mobile space may have more to do with getting your smartphone to communicate with other computing devices in the ecosystem than it will have with how many megapixels or ultrapixels your camera lens possesses or what kind of leather was used to finish the chassis.
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  • An extension of the smartphone as medical device is what Ideo's Blakely terms "appcessories," a set of highly specialized peripheral software that fulfills very targeted needs, stuff that most people wouldn't want their everyday phone.
  • . Let's say you're in a bar or at a conference and you want to meet people, he says. Extremely precise sensors track exactly where you are indoors. Point the phone toward a person in the crowd and her pertinent information pops onto the screen: who she is, what she does, and maybe some backgrou
  • Into the coffee shop of tomorrow walks a techie of tomorrow. He or she is decked out in wearable tech from head to toe -- the Bluetooth earring or ear cuff tucked into a lobe; Google glasses beaming up maps and directions; a smartwatch that takes your vitals, deals with mobile payments, and serves as a console for the most important functions. Then there's the smartphone slipped into the pocket for more complicated tasks or to serve as a "big" screen, and the smart shoes that calculate distance, underfoot conditions, and analyze your gait. Your smartphone is still there, still essential for communicating with your environment, but it becomes only one device in a collection of other, even more personal or convenient gadgets, that solve some of the same sorts of problems in different or complimentary ways.
  • The scenario above isn't all that outlandish, especially given the rise of smartwatches, which still have a ways to go before becoming truly well-rounded devices. Crazy tech that interacts with your body has been in development for some time. To illustrate the point, Frog's Rolston brought a pair of Necomimi Brainwave Cat Ears to our interview. The fuzzy "ears," which have been on sale for about two years, sit atop a headband. A sensor protrudes from the band onto your forehead and a dangling clip closes the circuit when you attach it to your earlobe. The cat ears swivel and twitch in concert with your brain waves, a bizarre and surprisingly giddy sensation. Necomimi's contraption isn't particularly useful or flattering, but its brain-reading sensors underscore the kind of close, personal interaction that can occur when tech "talks." Paired with a smartphone app, what could this contraption share about our brains when we wake or sleep?
  • The point is this: smartphones aren't going anywhere. But instead of a focusing on the world within the phone's screen, the smartphone will be tuned more than ever before to the world around you.
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