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7/14/2014
10:46 AM
Kim Davis
Kim Davis
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Smartphones Of The Future: 6 Cool Technologies

What will smartphones do next? Check out these technologies and ideas for next-gen gadgets.
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First up, why do we still call that familiar little friend in our pocket a "smartphone"? A phone? Sure, we still make or take calls, but it's high time the name of the device changed to reflect the use we're making of it today -- and the multitude of uses it will have tomorrow.

No, I'm not thinking "pocket computer," which sounds like something Flash Gordon might have carried in his utility belt. How about "life key"? Or just "my control." Because it takes only a moment's reflection to realize where that thin client in constant use is headed. It's part of a world-changing digital fabric, and woven together with machine-to-machine data, the Internet of Things, and the cloud (obviously), it's going to be the central dashboard for our working lives and our leisure lives -- assuming there continues to be a distinction.

We're nearing a major break in the smartphone's history. Whether that break will be sudden and clean, or gradual and sticky, is yet to be seen. It all started with the slow evolution of telephones: from separate ear and mouthpieces to single handsets; from rotary to push-buttons; and then from the table in the hallway to wireless portability. At some point, however -- whether you credit BlackBerry, Nokia, Palm, or Apple -- smartphone development irrevocably merged with the evolution of computing and the Internet.

In this slideshow, we take a look at six cool technologies coming to your pocket in the near to medium future. We're just scraping the surface, of course, but we think these technologies are at least representative of the direction so-called smartphones are going to take.

Specifically:

  • Smartphones will find ways to be off the grid, both as far as power is concerned, and in terms of being available for use always and anywhere.
  • They're going to be part of an ecosystem of connected devices -- in fact, they're probably going to be the system hub.
  • What's more, they're going to change the way we experience the actual world, transforming our surroundings into an ever-connected, informational environment.
  • There'll be much greater flexibility in modes of operation. The days of finger-pecking will be over.
  • And the physical properties of smartphones will start to adapt to functional needs.

Smartphones? Why do they even need to resemble handsets? Forget smartphones -- we're looking ahead to wearable (certainly), implantable (maybe), and even invisible (why not?) devices... but probably not shoephones.

The Internet of Things gives way to the Internet of Information. Find out how: Click the arrow to start the show.

(Image: Maxwell Smart of Get Smart. Source: Wikipedia)

Kim Davis is a Londoner by birth and a New Yorker by choice. He became a professional journalist in his teens, writing for the UK music press. He then co-founded and edited an academic philosophy journal, Cogito, while collecting a doctorate in the subject from the University ... View Full Bio

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jgleoj23
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jgleoj23,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/22/2014 | 8:27:14 PM
Re: Folding screens
Have you tried swype type or fleksy. 
SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
7/16/2014 | 7:26:53 AM
Re: Folding screens
Leap still exists and I think HP is going to use it in some of its laptops, I've also seen solutions that use a microphone to tell where on a surface you are tapping so that's another solution.   My problem with foldable keyboards is that they almost always turn out to be tiny.  I have trouble typing on anything smaller than a standard keyboard.  My hands are just too big to crunch down to a tablet sized keyboard.  Any solution for improved typing on phones would need to be more than a mini keyboard.
rradina
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rradina,
User Rank: Ninja
7/15/2014 | 10:40:46 AM
Re: Folding screens
Folding keyboard:  A number of years ago I read about a sensor that monitored your finger movements to create a virtual keyboard on any flat surface.  I don't know how well it worked but in theory, this idea could be adapted to reference any piece of paper that contains a keyboard layout.  The only unknown is where to place the sensor.  Making the sensor part of head gear adds new engineering problems.  Heads are not stationary.  The sensor would have to track the keyboard paper and adapt -- perhaps hundreds or thousands of times per second.  The sensor I read about monitored finger movements from a low angle.  When monitoring finger movements from a high angle, it would be more difficult (perhaps impossible?) to determine when a finger touches the surface.
Gary_EL
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Gary_EL,
User Rank: Ninja
7/15/2014 | 12:30:57 AM
Re: Folding screens
I'd like to see a folding keyboard, maybe something the size of a small pencil that can be unrolled to form a touch sensitive full-sized input device. And, when Google Glass is MUCH further along on the price curve, it can be the smartphone's viewing display. Then, we have one device that is phone, tablet, and a PC. A ComPhablit? The only thing that is still very hard to imagine is a battery for this beast that will hold an adequate amount of charge.
mak63
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mak63,
User Rank: Ninja
7/14/2014 | 11:26:52 PM
Re: Folding screens
@Laurianne

"...It is still a good idea for mobile devices if someone can make it work."
Someone already did. Check the video. It looks pretty neat

Flexphone by Ikev
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
7/14/2014 | 7:54:03 PM
Voice
Voice interaction will get better, but I think it will take a long time before it surpasses touch. The think about touch is that visual icons tell the user about the expected parameters of operation. For example, an arrow is understood as a way to navigate through content. With voice, you have to know the command syntax or have some sense of the range of acceptable words. And most of us are still not that comfortable talking to machines; we haven't yet developed a standard set of patter for anything beyond basic file commands. Siri is smart enough but deviate from the path too much and she'll get stumped.
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
7/14/2014 | 6:49:25 PM
Re: your smartphone will not open your door during a power outage
Good point, essential functions that are possible without the internet or electricity, should maintain their manual capabilities. An electronic lock is good because it enables operation from a distance, a smartphone controlled lock with a camera is better, but at the end of the day, if there is any kind of outage, the doors should still be able to be opened.
GAProgrammer
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GAProgrammer,
User Rank: Ninja
7/14/2014 | 4:31:25 PM
Re: your smartphone will not open your door during a power outage
Agreed. People (especially in the tech world) seem to think that just because they think something is cool or possible, that it should be done, regardless of reality. We need dreamers to push boundaries, but we also need people with common sense who are grounded in reality to reign in the dreamers.
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
7/14/2014 | 3:44:07 PM
Folding screens
I first heard the idea of a flexible display that folds out to become bigger -- think origami -- in the 90's, when we were struggling to slim down laptops. It is still a good idea for mobile devices if someone can make it work.
gev
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gev,
User Rank: Moderator
7/14/2014 | 2:45:21 PM
your smartphone will not open your door during a power outage
Unless you live in Southern California (where the weather, it seems, only changes from warmer to cooler and back), you experience noreasters, tornados, hurricanes, floods, and other weather events that result in power outages. For your phone to open that door, the door lock has to be powered on. And for that you need an uninterrupted supply of power. All this cool technology being dreamed up in Silicon Valley and being dumped on us, takes no consideration of the real life. I will keep my good old door lock for now.
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