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Summary:

When it comes to mobile phones, it’s all about touch screens — this year. But what will they look like in four or five years? I recognize that in 25 years they’ll be implanted into our bodies, à la Ray Kurzweil’s thesis, but how will we […]

When it comes to mobile phones, it’s all about touch screens — this year. But what will they look like in four or five years? I recognize that in 25 years they’ll be implanted into our bodies, à la Ray Kurzweil’s thesis, but how will we we improve upon them in the meantime?

Since Apple has scored the touch crown, Samsung is going hands-free. It’s filed for a patent to let your fingers do the talking — simply wave them in some predetermined way to, for example, pull up a phone number, navigate the web or play music. The patent is focused on how the phone’s camera is used to translate the hand signals and then deliver those instructions to the device for execution. For an example of how this could go wrong, think back to the movement-controlled radios in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” (the book, not the movie).

If your fingers can’t walk the talk, then it’s up to voice. Nuance Communications along with an undisclosed OEM are playing around with a button-less phone that will be entirely voice-controlled. I love using speech instead of my hands, but since the Nuance-powered voice recognition on my BlackBerry Pearl consistently offers to call my friend Trudy every time I ask it to call Om, I’m a little concerned about how that will work. C’mon Nuance, I can see confusing Om with Home, but Trudy? I don’t get it.

So touch, talk or sign, when it comes to mobile phones, it’ll be whatever pushes your buttons.

Image courtesy of cellpassion.com

  1. “Since Apple has scored the touch crown”

    How do you figure? Apple came into the game YEARS after touch screens were introduced to Windows Mobile and Palm devices. Even with tons of devices to copy, they still introduced a “new” phone with far fewer features than devices 5 years older. The only thing Apple scored is the hype crown.

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  2. Stacey Higginbotham Thursday, April 17, 2008

    Scionguy, Apple’s touch phones have brought touch to the mass market and are easier to use than Palm’s touch features. I’ve not used touch on a Windows Mobile device, so I can’t comment on that experience.

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  3. I’m not getting this. What’s the advantage of using hand signals? If they’re picked up by the phone’s camera, you’ve already got the damn thing sitting right there in front of you. The only good application I can think of is if you’re eating a burrito or something & don’t want to get food on your keypad.

    Can you flip your middle finger to get OTHER people to hang up on their calls?

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  4. @patricia

    love the middle finger=hang up gesture analogy. fantastic.

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  5. “Nuance-powered voice recognition on my BlackBerry Pearl consistently offers to call my friend Trudy every time I ask it to call Om”

    ah, so the problem is not with my Indian accent, then. Some of the choices it comes up with are truly unbelievable.

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  6. Stacey Higginbotham Thursday, April 17, 2008

    @Patricia, I wondered the same thing. Although I would find it satisfying to use my middle digit to end a particularly irritating conversation.

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  7. A phone without keys? Hm.
    While there will be a market, it will be a niche.

    Why?
    People use phones in public extensively. But few of us care to broadcast every action they take by speaking the names of their loved ones, the websites they want to visit etc out loud. And visiting, say, a defunct phone booth just to speak to my phone in private is a little ironic :-)

    So, while I believe there is a bright future for voice-input, Nuance and others are not moving things forward by hyping the technology before it has matured. Which is happening painfully slowly. We have heard of the imminent breakthrough of voice-input for PCs for what? 15 years I believe. The technology is still prone to errors. And if PCs can’t hack it, chances a mobile will succeed are slim.

    Considering the direction of future input, it is safe to say that we need new approaches. The ‘finger-flip-interpreter’ is an interesting approach. In combination with gyro-sensors this will allow for a more haptic user experience.

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  8. First of all, thanks to Om and his Team for linking the story to Cellpassion.

    It is interesting to see the different input options that manufacturers are considering when it comes to cellphones. Obviously, most of these will end up as being fancy features than actually controlling the phone. See how some brands are using the built-in accelerometer to change tracks by shaking the phone. I can imagine playing ‘paper, scissor, rock’ using this one till it bores me to death.

    But one thing is for sure, in the future cellphone cameras will have more uses than clicking pictures.

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  9. Am I the only one who feels stupid talking to a computer (a phone in this case)?

    I like my buttons (or touch screen), thanks.

    • Mr. Ludd
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  10. [...] 18, 2008 by Grant I was posting a comment on GigaOm a minute ago, and I used a line-initial double-dash. For some reason WordPress interpreted this as [...]

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