Future Phones: Let Your Fingers Do the Talking

31 Comments

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

31 Comments

J.Williams

Can u please tell me if future phones are in any way associated with a legal company called “UPI”? they have ontacted me tonight re: claiming back bank charges. i would just like to know if they are ligitimate or con merchants! please reply thanx jan.

kate

they conned me and now i am unable to get hold of anyone who can help.

i have reported them to trading standards and the guy dealing with it there is finding the same.

AVOID!!

Scionguy

@James: You need to get better sources. The iphone accounted for 28% of the smartphone market share (not ALL phones) in the 4th quarter of 2007. Selling more phones in 1 quarter does NOT mean they dominate the market. There are many, many millions more Windows Mobile phones out there whether you like it or not.

I have no reason to have a multi-touch, proximity, accelerometer or any other cool, but worthless gadget in my phone. It looks cool when you spin a picture around with 2 fingers, but it serves no purpose. I’d rather give that up and have 3G which does have a purpose. Or how about a battery I can change myself like Windows Mobile devices? If your phone goes dead you sit there bored. If mine goes dead I change the battery and continue doing whatever I need to do.

“Above all the iPhone has modern OS (OS X) with a REAL web browser and Wi-Fi to boot.”
Windows Mobile 6 was released in 2007.. I’d call that modern. My Windows Mobile based phone has had a REAL web browser and Wi-Fi for YEARS before the iphone was ever thought of. You wouldn’t know because you’ve never even touched a Windows Mobile device have you? And if I didn’t like the browser I could go download one of the countless other browsers since 3rd party applications are allowed. If you find that a feature is missing from your browser then you’re just out of luck because Apple already decided what you should/shouldn’t do with YOUR phone. Oh and since Jobs decided for all users that Flash isn’t good enough, your “real” web browser doesn’t support one of the most commonly used technologies. I wouldn’t call that a “real” browser. I’d call it “missing features”.. just like the rest of the iphone.

“Slapping together hardware, software, and services developed by different companies makes for a weak user experience.”
No, it makes for a great experience with lots of competition and innovation. When there is no competition (i.e. you have to get everything from Apple) then they have no incentive to make it better. A weak user experience is when you can only install Apple approved browser based applications. I can install all kinds of 3rd party applications (that are REAL applications) that give me a MUCH better user experience than a closed, proprietary iphone will ever have. A weak user experience comes from your cell phone manufacturer deciding which carrier you should be with. Fewer choices ALWAYS means worse experience for the user.

It’s a horrible business model and it’s why Apple can’t takeover Windows in the PC market either. With Windows you have tons of choices for hardware, software, etc. where the Macs have only 1 choice with 1 ridiculous price. The bottom line is Apple knows their products are shiny, but inferior in functionality. To stay in business they know they have to control every aspect of their products and consumers. Limiting consumer choices is the only thing Apple has ever been consistently good at.

Craig Daitch

It’s going to be as much about data as it is voice. Companies like Dial Plus (www.dialplus.com) have an opportunity to help change mobile consumer behavior.

James

@Scionguy “The only thing Apple scored is the hype crown.”

Hype?

Also-ran phone makers like Samsung have learned nothing. They are following the same FAILED strategy that Microsoft used to develop it’s iPod killing Zune. Seven years after the debut of the iPod(iPhone), no one has come close to learning it’s lessons as Apple gobbled up 80% of the market, while becoming the #1 retail music distributor at the expense of Walmart, Best Buy, and Amazon (8%). Now we see the same cycle repeating itself with the iPhone.

There is no attack of the clones. These are simply recycled models with a touchscreen slapped on. Not a Multi-Touch (gesture) phone, with a Proximity Sensor and an Accelerometer (think Nintendo Wii) touchscreen, but the same-old tried kiosk touchscreen that adorns every ATM machine. Same goes for the software and services. The Symbian OS and Windows Mobile are junk, along with also-ran music services. Integration is key.

What hype?

The ground break triad of integrated hardware (iPod/iPhone), software (iTunes), and services (iTunes Music Store), developed using a non-commodity based vertical model, defies everything that this industry has thrived on since the rise of the Windows PC. Slapping together hardware, software, and services developed by different companies makes for a weak user experience.

The problem for iPhone competitors is not features and price, rather their entire way of doing business.

Watch the video about iPhone 2.0 developments… (a great section in it about games for the iPhone – think Nintendo Wii)
http://www.apple.com/quicktime/qtv/iphoneroadmap/

James

The competitors won’t beat Apple using a horizontal model of development, because they can’t develop a product with the same level of integration that Apple can. Nor can they provide the ecosystem that iTunes / iTunes music store can provide.

Apple has changed the wireless phone market forever. Just like they have with Music and the first commercial non-DRM tracks, Apple has changed wireless well beyond hardware and software, being the first company to get revenue sharing from a wireless provider and circumvent them as the frontman.

You need to do some research.

It’s funny how so many people these days think that when something is wildly popular and people are excited about it, it’s just a fad or or some kind of infatuation (love affair). But the industry has changed and you just can see it, because your using “last years thinking” in a new age of technology.

We just see something you can’t, because it’s what we’ve been waiting for all along. Change.

Apple’s iPhone vs Smartphone Software Makers
http://www.roughlydrafted.com/2008/03/07/apples-iphone-vs-smartphone-software-makers/#more-1618

iPhone 2.0 SDK: Video Games to Rival Nintendo DS, Sony PSP
http://www.roughlydrafted.com/2008/03/20/iphone-20-sdk-video-games-to-rival-nintendo-ds-sony-psp/#more-1650

James

@Scionguy “Without 3G, 3rd party apps, active sync, GPS and tons of other features, the iPhone can’t “touch” a Windows Mobile device… The only thing Apple scored is the hype crown.”

That must be why the iPhone now exceeds Windows Mobile in marketshare. The crown doesn’t go to those in third place, like Windows Moblie.

iPhone trumping Windows Mobile ownership
http://www.electronista.com/articles/07/12/17/iphone.vs.windows.mobile/

iPhone Smashes Windows Mobile and Motorola in 4Q
http://gizmodo.com/353408/iphone-smashes-windows-mobile-and-motorola-in-4q

Canalys, Symbian: Apple iPhone Already Leads Windows Mobile in US Market Share, Q3 2007
http://www.roughlydrafted.com/2007/12/14/canalys-symbian-apple-iphone-already-leads-windows-mobile-in-us-market-share-q3-2007/

The Spectacular Failure of WinCE and Windows Mobile
http://www.roughlydrafted.com/RD/RDM.Tech.Q1.07/50755EA6-A759-42FD-84ED-EBB5A060AF16.html

James

@Scionguy “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.”

Whahaha… another critic about to go down in flames…

The iPhone is a game changer in just about every way that counts. Yes, there were touch phones before the iPod and many more after, BUT not Multi-Touch (gesture), with a Proximity Sensor and an Accelerometer (think Nintendo Wii), with 300 patents to protect it from also-ran phones from Nokia and others.

Above all the iPhone has modern OS (OS X) with a REAL web browser and Wi-Fi to boot. Also, the iPhone is about integrated software design and a developer friendly SDK. For the average user this will result in a superior user experience that goes well beyond current phones with inferior operating systems and troublesome development models.

Apple’s iPhone vs Smartphone Software Makers
http://www.roughlydrafted.com/2008/03/07/apples-iphone-vs-smartphone-software-makers/#more-1618

iPhone 2.0 SDK: Video Games to Rival Nintendo DS, Sony PSP
http://www.roughlydrafted.com/2008/03/20/iphone-20-sdk-video-games-to-rival-nintendo-ds-sony-psp/#more-1650

Scionguy

“Scionguy, Apple’s touch phones have brought touch to the mass market and are easier to use than Palm’s touch features.”

I hear Apple fans say that all the time, but it’s simply not true. Touch phones were in the mass market already thanks to Palm and Windows Mobile, and those 2 still enjoy a huge majority in market share over Apple. Apple brought touch to the people who care about “looking cool”. Those are the people who are shocked when I explain that touch screens really did exist before the iPhone.

“I’ve not used touch on a Windows Mobile device, so I can’t comment on that experience.”

I’ve used Palm, Windows Mobile and an iPhone. Without a doubt the Palm was the clear loser out of those 3. Between the other 2 I’d say the touch aspects are about the same, but Windows Mobile devices have far superior features that simply don’t exist on the iPhone yet. Good touch control is only as good as the features you’re controlling. Without 3G, 3rd party apps, active sync, GPS and tons of other features, the iPhone can’t “touch” a Windows Mobile device.

Grant

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
Rajat Agrawal

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.

Martin Lawrence

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.

Stacey Higginbotham

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

Mohan

“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.

patricia

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?

Stacey Higginbotham

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.

Scionguy

“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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