Revision: Cell Phones in 2025

I was thinking about my post where I predicted how cell phones would evolve to by 2030. While some of it may seem out there, other parts are pretty much already here. Voice command is becoming very common, as are touch screens. They’re even developing flexible electronics and computer screens.

So really, I think my prediction was a bit too conservative. Here’s what I think now. If you’ll notice, I’m also moving the timeline up a few years just because I think it can likely happen by then.

My prediction is this: new cell phones will, by and large, disappear by 2025. Yes, I think that a technology like Google’s Project Glass will completely supplant cell phones. There will probably still be cell phones around, of course, but they’ll be older models, maybe also cheap pre-paid ones. But the new, high-end cell phones won’t actually be hand-held devices like today (and they very likely won’t be called “cell phones”). The common status symbol of the past 25 years or so will be relegated to history.

Here’s how they’ll work. You’ll have your headset, or whatever it’ll be called, and you’ll be able to interact with it via voice command. But there’s another way in which you’ll also control it: by pressing buttons projected onto a surface. How? Well, take a look at this video:

The technology already exists. In fact, you probably won’t even have to actually project it, enabling everyone around you to see it. The projection itself will probably be completely within the headset and only you will be able to see it. The headset will be able to see what you’re pressing and where and will be able to match it to the appropriate virtual control. To the bystander, it’ll seem as if you’re pressing a blank wall. Right now this is technology that, while possible, really doesn’t have a practical application. Headsets give it an application. No other control system (keyboards, touchscreens, mice, etc) will be as useful as this for headsets. And really, it’s not very different from using a touchscreen, so I think adoption won’t be much of a problem.

Another interesting improvement will be the elimination of “talking-to-yourself-syndrome”. We’ve all seen people on Bluetooth who are using their phone. It’s jarring but we’ve sort of gotten used to it. The advantage of being on you head, though, is that you can run a ine down the neck and detect movement. Thus, simply mouthing words (with your mouth closed, too, so others can’t even tell you’re talking), the headset will be able to understand you. Seem strange? Well, again, it’s already existing technology:

It’s a bit limited now, but given a decade of R&D and about 1000-fold increase in processing power between now and then, it will likely be as reliable as talking to someone in real-time. And again, while this may be a somewhat pointless and obtrusive technology now (“you mean I’ve got to put that collar on to use it?”) if you’ve already got something on your head it’s not as big of a step (and it will almost certainly be a lot smaller, less obtrusive, and more discreet).

The cell phones of 2025 will not be anything like the cell phones of today. They will be light-weight, unobtrusive headsets that will be able to do all the things cell phones do today: make calls, send texts (dictated), surf the internet, download new apps, etc. And it will bring us one step closer to fully immersive virtual reality. Personal headsets can be the enabling technology where true, interactive, public virtual reality will begin, once they’re adopted.

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