15 May Science Fiction to Science Fact
Science Fiction has a history of producing predictions that come true.
Just look at your iPad. It bears striking resemblance to the description offered by Arthur C. Clarke in 2011: A Space Odyssey (1968) with the “newspad”.
2012 is gearing up to be an exciting year of innovation with many technologies once only imagined in science fiction becoming reality.
2012 has seen a host of companies propose concepts for flexible screens, which is a miracle for those who fear cracked or broken screens. One of those companies is Samsung, who has announced that they will mass produce their flexible AMOLED screens this year to be used in phones and tablets.
Samsung states that the bendable screens will be able to withstand very high temperatures (150 degrees celsius to 232 degrees celsius) and can be rolled down to a 2 cm radius. There are already reports that Samsung will be releasing a flexible smartphone called the ‘Galaxy Skin’ later this year, which will use the AMOLED screens. The screen will be brighter, consume less amount of energy and will be almost unbreakable. The flexible screen is made out of plastic polyimide substrate (instead of glass), with the key ingredient being ‘graphene’, which has been dubbed by scientists from the Columbia University, as the strongest material in the world, “some 200 times stronger than structural steel”.
The screen will be a high-resolution 800 x 480 AMOLED, with an eight megapixel rear facing camera, 1GB of RAM and is less than 0.3mm thick. Samsung have not yet announced a release date.
Nokia also showcased a completely flexible device, called the Kinetic at Nokia World 2011, which at this stage is just a prototype. There is no touch screen, but rather you interact with the device by bending and twisting it. For instance, to zoom in to a photo you bend the device towards you, to zoom out bend the device away from you. To scroll up and down, you twist the device (see the video below for a demonstration). Nokia also displayed a flexible remote which seemed to operate using the same principles.
If this wasn’t enough, LG unveiled a flexible 6-inch e-paper display with a resolution of 1024 x 768. The e-paper can bend up to 40 degrees, is just 0.7 mm thick and weighs 14 grams. LG claim that the device is nearly unbreakable through its successful drop tests from 1.5 meters.
Senseye has developed a technology, which flashes an undetectable LED at your retinas to enable the camera on your smartphone or tablet to track your eye so your phone knows what you are looking at. This technology could potentially be used to play games, text, automatically scroll as you read and act as a security measure (i.e. unlocking your phone through a retinal scan).
The company will offer this technology through both an “EyeDock” (an add-on with a webcam and infrared LED ) and as a built in feature of future phones, using the phone’s front-facing camera and a built in LED.
The company expects the device to be launched in 2013 for between $10-$100.
Augmented Reality Coming To Tablets and Phones
It was only 10 years ago that Minority Report brought us a vision of fully interactive 3D interfaces, however, Microsoft has filed a patent that could potentially bring this sci-fi vision into reality. Earlier this year, Microsoft announced it was working on a 3D computer that requires the user to place their hands behind the OLED transparent display and interact with the computer through hand gestures and head tracking. However, it seems that Microsoft sees the development of augmented reality not only limited to desktops. This patent (detailed by Patent Bolt), seems to suggest Microsoft are looking at developing a portable version.
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The patent shows several configurations for a device with transparent displays, which points towards Microsoft envisioning this transparent display being used for smartphones, tablets, a small laptop and other handheld devices.
The use for a transparent screen sits within the ability to overlay words and images on the environment, which is of course visible through the transparent screen. There are a variety of possible uses for the technology, including using geolocation and recognition software to bring in all kinds of information about your environment or trying on clothes without having to physically do so.
In a similar vein, Aston Martin, in conjunction with Canadian luxury phone maker Mobiado, have developed a concept for a see-through phone, which also acts as a remote control for your Aston Martin. The screen of the CPT002 is solid sapphire crystal, overlayed with a transparent capacitive touchscreen, with platinum crafted sides in which the battery, electronics and SIM card is housed.
Both Microsoft’s patent and this concept phone certainly point towards a future of transparent, interactive screens.
3D Video Conferencing
George Lucas envisioned a world full of robots, futuristic cities and a completely visual form of communication; the hologram. While you most probably won’t be speaking to Princess Leia, researchers at Queen’s University in Canada have managed to develop a way in which to conduct 3D video conferencing. The Telehuman project has given us a glimpse into the future of communication, which will enable you to see a life-sized, 3D representation of the person you are speaking to. The only catch is, you need a giant cylindrical pod to display the image.
Although holographic video conferencing seems lightyears away Roel Vertegaal, director of the Human Media Lab at Queen’s University and his team say they were able to put it together with existing technology. “We basically stitched together a bunch of Kinect,” said Vertegaal in an interview with The Times, “but it was relatively complicated to get them all to work together.” Six Kinect sensors are mounted at the top of the pod, which tracks your position as you walk around it, while four extra sensors are placed around the room to form a square, which can then capture your back and side view. The 3D projector in the base of the pod beams the life-sized image, enabling you to get a 360 degree view of the person you are speaking to.
The technology won’t be cheap, at least initially, with Vertegaal expecting a mass produced Telehuman to cost about $5,000, with $1,500 of that going towards purchasing 10 kinect sensors.
Receive Calls, SMS and Emails on Your Watch
Sony has released a wristwatch to compliment smartphones using the Android operating system.
Paul Hamnett, Sony Mobile Communications Customer Unit President says that the “SmartWatch provides access to live content and entertainment on the go,” by connecting wirelessly to your smartphone via Bluetooth.
The SmartWatch is reminiscent of one worn by Dick Tracy, a 1940’s comic strip detective whose high tech watch was used to communicate with police,which hinted at a future where communication occurred on your wrist.
The watch features a simple, touch interface that brings information from your phone to the watch such as social updates, the weather and calendar notifications. You can also mute, reject and take calls and read SMS and emails. Google Play offers a variety of apps designed specifically for the watch, which adds functionality.
Automate Household Appliances Using Your Phone
Present day smartphones have become much more than just a device to make and receive calls. The phone of the 21st century provides you with the weather, social updates, games, news, web browsing and more recently an electronic wallet. If this wasn’t enough, a research project by Microsoft aims to see smartphones controlling appliances in your household.
With the HomeMaestro app, a room can prepare itself for your presence. The lights, television, air conditioning, radio will turn on as soon as you open the door in a sequence you determine. Using a Windows Phone and the app, you can create a list of rules by which Internet-connected appliances will comply within a specified order. As in the video, an example would be as soon as the door is opened, a lamp turns on or when the air conditioning is turned down to a lower temperature, the fan will turn off.