During lunch with an old friend last week, we talked about how much has changed since we first met over 30 years ago. Politics, the music business, fashion, pop culture, the list goes on. And so much was impossible to foresee. The highlight was when my friend whipped out his smartphone and said, “Who would’ve thought we’d have these things?”
True. Where as an iPhone was once only in the domain of science fiction, it’s now an everyday object that gets as much notice as a car driving down the street. But the now-ubiquitous devices will keep capturing our attention, as they provide richer features driven by more and more advanced technology.
No one can safely predict what tomorrow will bring; technology and social trends mix together to create new features and functionality. However, based on today’s environment, a number of smartphone advances seem clear as we look up the road in the coming years.
For starters, let’s consider Augmented Reality (AR). With this technology, you can point your phone at a specific location to get instant information about the place. For example, the address, hours of operation, even history of a museum or coffee shop. Doing so eliminates the need to make a call or perform an Internet search.
While there are already AR applications that offer this feature, it hasn’t yet risen to level of seamlessness and reliability demanded by most users. As people get used to less typing and more automation, these apps will improve and will probably be used more than standard searches. They’ll simply be more convenient.
Speaking of convenience, look out for flexible screens. By this we mean, smartphones might have the ability to offer a large screen to use for watching movies and playing games, yet still be small enough to carry in a pocket or purse. That would be possible due to screens you can fold and unfold.
But it might get even more interesting. Imagine being able to turn your smartphone into a projector? The projector can be used, for example, as a gaming console, with the use of body or voice as a controller. You wouldn’t even need a TV screen. Just find a flat surface, use your smartphone to “beam” out a projector, and you’ll be ready to do your thing.
On that note, we’re inching closer to seamless voice control. Of course, voice control has become a big deal since we first “met” Siri some years ago, but the technology still has a ways to go in terms of voice recognition. However, Siri has indeed shown that instead of recognizing words through sound waves, the better approach is to interpret diction and syntax just the same way humans recognize speech. Known as “Natural Language User Interfaces”, this will likely turn out to be a more efficient method for completing tasks via voice commands, getting us to true seamless voice control.
Just like with voice recognition, we always want better and better screen resolution. We’ve already moved from 2D to 3D, so holograms could be on your smartphone horizon. This simply means being able to display 3D holograms from your smartphone. 3D displays could also be integrated with movement. Just think: being able to alter photos by using your hands to manipulate holographic photos that appear in front of you.
These are only some of the advances we may see with our devices over the next five years. But like my friend and I discussed, you can look back and realize you had no idea of what could happen. Something will come along that you and I (or even tech visionaries) haven’t even imagined. That’s the fun part.