February 23, 2013 2 Comments
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You won’t believe how much your computer and mobile devices are going to change in the next few years. I’m not talking about incremental changes like faster processors or better screens either. I’m talking about major new changes in the way you interact with your devices.
1. Perceptual Computing
Right now the only way to interact with most personal computers is using a keyboard and mouse. In the future, your computer will respond to sight, sound, smell, touch, temperature and more.
Sight – Your next computer or mobile device will automatically unlock its screen after recognizing your face. But that’s just the beginning, it will have a front-facing 3D camera that can recognize gestures and track all ten of your fingers. This will allow you to interact with things on the screen without needing a mouse. Imagine using your fingers to open a virtual door in a video game. This, and much more will be possible. These cameras can detect whether you like what you’re smiling, and use that to insert emoticons automatically. It’s even possible to track eye movement and use that to move an onscreen cursor. Eventually these cameras may even be able to tell whether you like what you’re seeing, and change what you are viewing when you don’t. Pretty cool. This technology will first be available as low-cost add-on for your personal computers, but eventually will be incorporated into tablets and smartphones.
Status: Some Android phones and Dell computers support face screen unlock today. Creative sells a 3D camera that does many of the things described here when used with a new Intel SDK. Samsung’s Galaxy S IV will be the first smartphone to use eye movement to scroll.
Sound – Your next laptop could have voice-recognition capabilities that reduce the need for a keyboard and mouse. You’ll be able to use your voice to log-in and do many other things. Of course your computer will talk to you as well. Later this year, some Android smartphones will start listening all of time — even when your phone is in standby. That means you will be able to interact and control your phone from across the room without pressing a single button. Worried about privacy and battery life? Don’t. This feature will use very little power and you can disable it at any time.
Status: Dell already sells computers with voice-recognition support. They let you interact with Google, Facebook and Twitter using your voice. Phones like the Samsung Galaxy S III automatically take a photo when you say the word “smile.”
Smell – Small sensors are available today which are capable of detecting odors. Some are used for breathalyzers, others sniff out poisonous gases. They can even detect bad breath. Although you won’t find them in a mobile device, special sensors can even detect some types of cancer. In the future your devices may emit odors on command as well. This feature could be used for games, movies or e-commerce.
Status: A odor emitter accessory is available for the iPhone today in Japan. Smell sensors are also available but no commercially-available smartphone has incorporated them yet.
Touch – Intel says we’ll be able to purchase touch-enabled ultra thin notebooks this year for less than $599. I hope Apple eventually adds touch-screen support to their laptops as well. Touch technology also allows you to feel vibrations on your screen. This technology is found in most Android mobile devices today, but should migrate to Apple mobile devices and PC computers soon.
Status: PC laptops and all-in-ones with touch-screens have been around for a long time however, many of them have been expensive.
Temperature, Location and Human-like Faces – Future laptops will have the same technology we take for granted in our mobile devices today including GPS systems, temperature sensors, a compass, barometers and accelerometers. They will also have avatars that look like humans. Imagine actually seeing the person behind the Siri-like voice and hearing a much more realistic sounding voice. Here’s a preview of what I’m talking about [scroll ahead to about 8:40].
2. Computational Photography
The cameras in our mobile devices will continue to evolve beyond higher megapixels. Larger sensors will take photos with reduced noise, greater dynamic range and better low-light performance. Future cameras will also have more internal processing and manipulation capabilities. This advanced computational photography will include HDR video, strobe-motion photos, higher-dynamic range photos and 3D image reconstruction.
Camera arrays are another exciting technology you’ll see soon in smartphones soon. Their use of multiple lenses will allow you to do amazing things which are not possible today like fixing an out of focus photo after you’ve taken it, or changing the focal point from one object to another like Lytro does today (dynamic aperture control). See this feature in action here.
Status: The Nokia Lumia 920 and new HTC One have larger sensors than other mobile cameras. Examples of computational photography found in today’s cameras include HDR photos and panoramic photos. The Samsung Galaxy S III goes beyond face-tracking and can detect whether people are smiling or not. It can also recognize who is in a photo.
3. Faster 4G LTE Data Speeds
There are some new buzzwords which are going to make 4G a lot more confusing. Next-generation mobile processors like the Snapdragon 800 have Category 4 modems with are capable of download speeds up to 150 Mbps. That’s 50% faster than the limits of today’s CAT3 4G devices, although some tests have shown it’s over 2x faster.
Another term you’re going to hear about is LTE Advanced, where multiple radio channels and advanced antenna techniques are used to increase data speeds as high as 1 Gbps. Although this is a theoretical limit, expect real-world speeds up to 10 times faster than today’s LTE phones. The LTE Advanced standard is expected to be released later this year, but don’t expect see support for it right away.
4. Ultra HD
If you think HD looks good, you’ll love Ultra HD even more because it has four times the resolution of current 1080p high-definition displays. Few people will be able to afford an Ultra HD TV by 2015, but there is a chance you will be able to afford a 4K Ultra HD tablet by then. In addition to a 3840×2160 pixel display, you need both hardware and software that supports the new HVEC (H.265) video compression standard if you want to play 4K video.
Status: Panasonic demonstrated a 4K tablet at CES last month, but it won’t be available anytime soon. Nokia and Qualcomm demonstrated Ultra HD playback on mobile devices at CES as well. Those chips will start appearing in products in the second half of 2013.
5. Gigabit Wireless
One of the new technologies I’m most excited about is gigabit wireless (802.11ac). How much faster is it than current 802.11n Wi-Fi speeds? Gigabit wireless is capable of maximum speeds over twice as fast as the current 450 Mbps limit. Of course real-world speeds are lower (about 150 Mbps), but they are still twice as fast as 802.11n speeds.
Why you need this: If you want to stream one (or more) 1080p videos at once over Wi-Fi without buffering, you need gigabit wireless. I sometimes turn off Wi-Fi on my phone when I’m areas with fast 4G because Wi-Fi is slower than 4G. That won’t be the case in the future.
What you’ll need to buy: In order to experience gigabit Wi-Fi speeds you’ll need to replace your current Wi-Fi router with a new 802.11ac router like this one. Keep in mind the standard is not finalized, so you’ll want to update your firmware after that occurs. You’ll also need a laptop or mobile device which supports gigabit Wi-Fi. You’ll see phones with gigabit wireless support available in the second half of this year.
Car-to-car Wi-Fi is coming – Another Wi-Fi standard to watch for is 802.11p which allows cars to form a mesh network and communicate using Wi-Fi technology. Cars with this technology will be communicate with other cars and warn each other of upcoming hazards. Don’t expect to see cars with 802.11p this year however.
6. Eight-core Mobile Processors
Samsung and Huawei have been announced 8-core processors for mobile devices. Although this sounds impressive because it’s twice as many as you’ll find in a mobile device today, the jury is out on whether these first generation 8-core processors are really faster, or just a marketing gimmick. There are two problems with first gen 8-core CPUs: First, all cores do not run at the same speed. The first 8-core CPUs have 4 fast cores and 4 slower cores. Second, initially only 4 cores can be running at any given time. As a result, it appears the main benefit with these will be improved battery life, but it’s unclear whether it will be better than current quad-core processors which can scale down both voltage and frequency.
7. 64-bit Mobile Processors
ARM says 64-bit mobile processors will be available starting in 2014. They claim 64-bit processors will provide will provide 3x more processing power than today’s chips and be able to address much larger amounts of memory. This could help mobile processors to enter new markets like servers and high-end PCs. Although there doesn’t seem to be a strong reason to use these chips in smartphones today that doesn’t mean someone won’t try it as a marketing gimmick.
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Copyright 2013 Rick Schwartz. All rights reserved. Linking to this article is encouraged.
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