Thursday, September 29

Fwd: The future of computing

(Wherein I go on and on speculating about things I probably don't know enough about.)

(I started this over a month ago and kept thinking I was going to finish it. Guess not. So I'm kicking it out of the nest...)

(Didn't mean to have that 'Fwd:' in the title. Forwarded it from Gmail. But it's kind fo appropriate and cool (to me), so I'm leaving it :-)

The Black Dog mobile Linux computer looks cool. You have to have a PC to plug it into, so that's a limiting factor (v. a PDA that has a screen and input mechansim). I don't think at this stage you'd be better off with one of these than, say, a 4GB Palm LifeDrive (which has a screen and input mechanism, in addition to USB access). The Palm's about twice as much and doesn't have native Linux of biometrics, but it's got 8x the memory. No, the Black Dog seems like it's just for the hardcore right now.

However, this is the direction I see computing going. I predict my children will have a mobile computer the size of an iPod with some sick amount of memory, next generation Wi-Fi and Bluetooth (thus no need for USB, etc.), decent computing power, integrated music player, telephone and video/still camera. Depending on how robust Wi-Fi gets, we may not even have to tote our data with us. Next generation display might be projected on glasses or direct to your retina. Next generation after that might be holographic. Next generation input might be data 'gloves' (think Minority Report). Even tiny chips on your fingernails (or, *gasp* under the skin of your fingerpads) could do the trick here. We're talking PAN - Personal Area Network. The system could project heads-up buttons onto your 'display' (again, glasses or hologram). Minor force feedback in the gloves could give you subtle, no-look, tactile response. Being able to interact wirelessly (via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, etc.) with more robust systems when more/better processing power, speed, memory, input, display, etc. is needed will be critical. The whole thing could be powered/recharged mostly by the body, with backup solar and solid state batteries. Less mobile accessories would include a touchscreen display (roughly 8.5x11), video projector, compact sound system, printer. I also, as I predict, need to keep in mind innovations in the works in the areas of e-paper and flexible screens. Everyone could have a roll-screen and e-paper, if we can get those technologies going.

I did this much without googling. Googling reminded me of something else I think a lot about: data input and output. I think a lot about this because I'm lazy. What's the fastest and easiest way to input? Voice (unless you're a really good typist). What's the fastest way to consume data? Reading. We'll want (and should have) the option of inputting our data any way we want: voice, writing, typing, etc. Then we should be able to output it any way we want. More convenient to listen to something? No problem. On a plane and can't really 'talk' it? Type.

Now, after googling, some more resources:

The Bright Future of Mobile Computing
Projection Keyboard

http://www.computerworld.com/mobiletopics/mobile/story/0,10801,76656p4,00.html

The really interesting platform for mobile applications is the automobile. It has a big battery and the ability to generate electricity. It has space for all kinds of devices. People spend a lot of time in them. Look for in-car telematics to include GPS, data storage, docking for multiple types of handheld devices, hard-copy output and so on. All of this already exists in law enforcement -- and the new bus-based, 48-volt auto system standards will accelerate the vehicle telematics explosion. -- John Parkinson, chief technologist, Cap Gemini Ernst & Young U.S. LLC, Rosemont, Ill.

The killer device isn't a phone/PDA combo -- it's a GPRS/Wi-Fi combo card for whatever you want to plug it into and software that roams seamlessly across both networks. -- John Parkinson, chief technologist, Cap Gemini Ernst & Young U.S. LLC, Rosemont, Ill.

Could be - if there are enough good places to plug into...

RFID: The Future Is in the Chips
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