Thursday, October 13, 2011

How about a cell phone with a giant display?

Andy Rooney may be retired, and Steve Jobs may have passed away, but people are still asking questions. Take Jake Kuramoto, who recently complained that smartphone all look alike and are boring:

Recently, I saw several smartphones laid out at my gym, and I was struck at how much alike they looked, despite being produced by different manufacturers and rocking different carriers and OSes. It’s all black bricks with big screens anymore.

As I read his post, I thought to myself, what else can you do with the smartphone design? Once upon assume a touchscreen, and include some size touchscreen on the device, there isn't much more you can do with the product, is there? You can't make it much smaller. If you want to add a keyboard, you can introduce a slider model (my phone is not a touchscreen, but the keyboard does slide out).

But what if you weren't constrained by the screen size? I commented:

The screen itself can only get so small - unless the screen were projected onto something else, such as a nearby wall. Incorporate some touch capability and you've got it.

But then I said:

Unfortunately, it's not that practical.

(In my brain, I was wondering where you'd project your phone screen if you were in the middle of an airline terminal, or some other crowded location without a flat surface handy.)

To which Jake responded:

Yeah well, back in 2006, touch screens weren't for phones either so a guy can dream.

So I began wondering if anyone was projecting cell phone screens for a larger viewing size. It turns out that this has been done for at least three years now - since 2008. Here's a description of a Microvision product - a description that incorporates words like "dream."

The MicroVision SHOWWX+ laser pico projector can project pictures, movies, streaming video and presentations from an Apple iPod, MacBook, windows-based laptop, digital camera, and more.

MicroVision is also working with business partners to enable better viewing experiences for users of mobile devices. Sharing photos, watching movies, and giving presentations using the small screens of today’s devices limits our ability to imagine, entertain, and share.

Here's how it works.

Now if you combine this projection capability with something like the Kinect technology that Steve Ballmer successfully launched, then you can use a very small device to work in a very large area. Perhaps you can't eliminate the screen - after all, as I noted above, you can't always find a wall on which to project - but you can certainly rethink the design of your portable device to optimize its projection capabilities.

Here's to the crazy ones, indeed.
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