There are two main directions of evolution for mobile devices: sensors and form factor.
While there’s been some development in sensor technology, there’s still a lot of possibilities, so I’m looking forward to seeing a startup making advances in this direction.
Pocket mobile devices are quite popular, but the era of wearable computing is yet to come. Wrist devices seem promising. The current wave of smartwatches has not scratched the surface yet. Apple and other manufacturers completely don’t get it, so one day some company will come and create the perfect wrist computer.
Below is a breakdown of what an actually useful wrist computer could do.
A computer-like backlit mini-panel is a joke. It consumes a lot of energy, so it must be turned off when you’re not looking to save battery. The solution is obvious – take a look at Kindle. Current Kindle screens are slow to refresh, but they consume very little power and are readable in every lighting conditions, including bright sunlight and darkness. The optional backlight in a wrist device could be automatic and conditional on day/night as well as the “look at me” gesture (like in current smartwatches).
I am supposed to charge a smartwatch… every day? That is the biggest joke. That is not the direction this technology should be going in. Solar batteries and kinetic charging has been around for 30 years and more. It’s time these technologies are leveraged in wearable devices.
A touchscreen on a watch-sized computer, however useful and necessary, is really too small for most things, esp. typing. The input of such computer should be primarily based on voice recognition. Regardless of whether it can just listen-in for your commands or whether you need to press a button (and it should be ready within milliseconds), the input should be prefiltered and it should be able to tune-in to the owner’s voice, so that it is usable even in loud or public places, and does not accept commands from other people.
As for the actual speech recognition, solutions like SoundHound promise the future where you can say anything to your computer, and it will understand you.
Hardened and waterproof
When the device does not need to be charged (or can optionally be charged wirelessly) and does not have any buttons, it could potentially be made waterproof. The main challenge for making it waterproof would still be the microphone and speaker.
Connectivity and apps
You can expect these from any kind of computer these days. You need all sorts of notifications around the clock and you need the ability to call people and see them at the same time. The main challenge here lies in energy consumption.
Lots of sensors
Finally, there are lots of useful sensors that could make this kind of device a really useful companion:
- GPS, accelerometer, gyroscope, compass – nothing new here, you can expect these types of sensors in every mobile device these days. They can tell you your location on demand, figure out what you’re doing with the device (or with your hand), etc. I’m looking forward to the ability of using GPS without active connection, a feature of which the mobile Google Maps app has apparently forgotten, or maybe they can’t do that due to patents (all hail the patent law!).
- Temperature, pressure and humidity – it would be useful if your watch could tell you these.
- Heart rate and blood pressure – if you are in pursuit of healthy living, you need to know these.
- Spectrometer – if you go to a restaurant, you want to know if the fish you’ve been served has been poisoned with heavy metals. Even though spectrometers are still a feat of extraterrestrial rovers, someday they will revolutionize the way we do shopping and help us avoid unhealthy substances served to us by the food industry.
So would you wait for a wrist computer which is useful and not tedious, or can the coolness of the Apple Watch or an Apple Watch-like smartwatches lure you?