February 04, 2011

Smartphones of the future

This is a summary of how the smartphones of 2015 and 2020 could change.
1. More AI and speech recognition and better gesture control
2. Context awareness and more integration with sensors and other phones
3. Different display options (rollable displays, better picoprojectors and more)
4. Increased processing power and better energy efficiency and management

MIT is adding more Artificial Intelligence into Smartphones

A new system from the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory’s Spoken Language Systems Group automatically combs through users’ reviews, extracting useful information and organizing it to make it searchable.

Two prototypes of the MIT system, both with speech interfaces, can currently be found online. One takes commands in Chinese and contains information on businesses in Taipei, Taiwan, and the other takes commands in English and includes information on businesses in Boston.

Rice University blog discusses issues related to future smartphones.

* The next wave of mobile applications should be able to serve us continuously without our active engagement. Collect data, analyze situations, and provide information in situ. Many applications try to do this now but I have to shut them off for power management. If the applications can be smarter and more efficient about how this is done, then it could become more useful

* Smartphones must be reconsidered to add sensing as a key function. This is because their services will increasingly rely on how well they know about the user and the user context. The platform architecture should be redesigned to embrace sensors with diverse natures, deviating from the current computing-centric paradigm. Moreover, smartphones should be able to seamlessly work with wireless sensors worn by the user, implanted inside the user, or even deployed in the environment to collect data.

* energy efficiency will continue to be critical. While emerging nanotechnologies are promising significant improvement in battery density measured by joules per kilogram, historically battery density doubles about every 10 years, a much slower pace than what we would like to have. More importantly, smartphones can only rely on passive dissipation to remove heat, unlike desktops and laptops that can use fans and even water cooling. For a smartphone, one watt increase in its steady power consumption will lead to about 13 degree Celsius increase in its surface temperature. Remember that 43 degree Celsius is "burning hot" to human beings; and we cannot hold a potato of that temperature in the hand indeed. That also means Houston users will have a bigger thermal problem with their smartphones than folks, say, in Alaska. On a final note, emerging fuel cell battery technologies for mobile devices usually have a low efficiency (<50%). That is, they produce more power in heat than in electricity. If our phones are powered by fuel cell battery technologies, half a watt increase in phone power consumption will produce more than one watt of heat and therefore lead to over 13 degree Celsius surface temperature increase

Digital trends looks at smartphones of 2015 and beyond

1. Smartphones will have the processing power of laptops. In June, 2010, DoCoMo started offering the Toshiba T-01A in Japan, a super-fast phone that uses an advanced Qualcomm chip. With these fast processors, smartphones will finally run full-blown apps such as Adobe Photoshop.

By 2011, there will be 1.5 Ghz quad core Tegra 3 chips for smartphones and tablets By 2013, there will Nvidia Maxwell chips.

2. According to John Shen, the Lab Director at Nokia Research Center, the smartphone of 2015 will be able to link phones together to form a cluster where a group of phones provides PC-like processing capability.

3. Smartphone enabled social connections, augmented reality, and high resolution games.

There will be form factor options

Energy efficient, bright and thin picoprojectors

Smartphones with built in picoprojectors exist now. Japanese mobile operator NTT DoCoMo announced that at the end of 2011 mobile phone with built-in pico-projector Sharp SH-06C was no sale. Smartphone SH-06C has a DLP projector brightness of 9 lumens and a resolution of 640 × 360 pixels, and is equipped with a 3.7-inch touch screen resolution of 480 × 854.

Samsung has the Galaxy Beam 3150.

MIT Technology Review reports that researchers in Germany have developed the world's thinnest "pico" video projector. The prototype device contains an array of carefully shaped microlenses, each with its own miniature liquid-crystal display (LCD). The device is just six millimeters thick, but it produces images that are 10 times brighter than would normally be possible with such a small device. The new lens system is small enough to be incorporated into a slim smart phone. The resolution of the projector is close to that of a WVGA projector, which has 800 by 480 pixels. The new projector has a brightness of 11 lumens, says Sieler, compared to 10 to 15 lumens for existing pico projectors. Sieler says that if the prototype were the same size as an existing pico projector, it would produce about 90 lumens. The next challenge is to make the LCD pixels smaller, from 8.5 microns each to less than three microns.

Flexible, thin film displays
There will be various technologies and options for large displays displays that can be rolled up.

HP and Arizona state university have Demonstrated flexible displays that can be rolled up This should be on the market in 2012 and in mass production in 2013. The flexible displays can be mass produced by using a production method called Self-Aligned Imprint Lithography (SAIL). By manufacturing the displays in the form of rolls instead of sheets makes the production method more cost effective. Rollup newspaper displays were shown in Minority Report.

Wearable displays in Glasses

DARPA is working on glasses with enhanced displays with zoom and night vision.

There are displays in glasses and there will be displays in contact lenses. There does not seem to be a shift to these kinds of displays.

Gesture control

Besides the improvements to speech recognition, there will be better gesture control of devices.

Google, for its part, has added MEMS-based gesture recognition application programming interfaces to the Gingerbread release of the Android OS, which recognizes such gestures as tilt, spin, thrust and slice.

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