Phones of the Future: The Gadget Lover’s Dream

How will the smartphones of tomorrow go above and beyond today’s flagships? It’s not hard to imagine cameras with more megapixels, higher resolution screens, and faster processors, but what else will these phones of the future do?

Let’s start with the basics, like the screens. OLED displays are great, but when it comes to reading, nothing can beat e-ink technology, like on Amazon’s kindle. In the future, we’re going to see phones that offer hybrid displays, where the user can switch between OLED and e-ink, making it not only easier on the eyes for reading but also saving power.

What about unlocking phones? We perform this simple action all day long, so making it as effortless as possible is a priority. Huawei told me that the company is trying to accomplish this with a full-screen fingerprint reader. Touch anywhere on the screen, and the phone instantly unlocks. This technology will also enable fingerprint verification on individual icons, such as the phone gallery, to safeguard specific apps.

Another hassle we all face on a daily basis is charging our phones. While wireless charging systems are popular, our phones are still tethered to these wireless charging pads. What would be really convenient is a platform that could automatically charge your devices from anywhere in a room.  Huawei is trying to make that a reality too with its patent for a laser-charging module. The trick to making this work was designing lasers that won’t damage the human eye, which is sensitive to intense light. Once a laser charger is installed in a room, phones will automatically charge up. Imagine entering a coffee shop or your office, and your phone charges as you use it. No need to plug it in or place it on a special pad.

Most everyone is worried about dropping their phone and cracking the screen. Corning has been working towards creating an unbreakable screen with ever-stronger versions of Gorilla Glass. However, there’s another way to tackle this problem, and that’s with flexible phones. If you dropped your device, it could simply bounce back to its original shape, like a trampoline.

Flexible, foldable phones are already here, but what if you could stretch your phone? Let’s say you wanted to watch a movie: Wouldn’t it be nice to stretch the screen to double its original size? Researchers at Michigan State University have developed the first stretchable integrated circuit, so it might not be long before the entire phone can expand and contract according to your needs. You may even be able to slap your phone on your wrist and wear it as a bracelet.

Our phones are also playing a larger role in our health. It’s not hard to imagine a future where our phones and smartwatches become portable doctors that are constantly monitoring our health conditions and warning us of potential problems. And it’s only a matter of time before AI is able to use the massive amounts of data collected to become far better and faster at analyzing our health than any physician. In fact, researchers have developed an AI solution that can predict if you’ll die soon. After examining 1.77 million electrocardiogram (ECG) results from nearly 400,000 patients, the AI determined which people were at a high risk of dying within the next year more accurately than doctors could.

On a lighter note, picking the color of your phone may become a thing of the past. Instead of struggling to decide between cloud lavender and aquamarine blue or boring black, you may be able to change the color of your phone every day with just a tap on the screen. The feature could also have a mode to alter the color automatically on a daily basis. With a few properly placed LED lights inside, you could even create gradient colors

Eventually, phones will interface with an array of new augmented reality (AR) devices.  Mojo, a startup, is attempting to create the first mass-market AR contact lenses. Couple these with bone conduction headphones and Alexa-like voice assistants, and people will literally be able to keep their phones in their pocket as they interact with all the internet. Add in a 3D-gesture reading device and holographic imaging, and the world around you becomes one giant touchscreen.

If that’s not enough, what if we didn’t have to touch or say a thing to interact with our phone? What if the phone could read our minds? This may sound far out, but dozens of startups and most of the tech giants are working on this right now. Using technologies like Electroencephalogram (EEG), ultrasound, or quasi-ballistic photons, the phone of the future may be able to read your brainwaves and use sophisticated AI to determine what you are thinking.

Imagine being able to text message just by thinking of someone and then saying the words in your head. You may even be able to send images through your mind. In fact, using EEG and AI, researchers at the University of Toronto have been able to extract images directly from people’s brains. For example, if a person is looking at a photo on a computer screen, the scientists can reproduce an approximate image just by examining the brain. Once this technology matures, the possibilities are endless. In the distant future, people may be able to directly communicate brain-to-brain, sharing images, thoughts, and possibly emotions. Goodbye emojis!

And for those of you afraid of having your brains hacked, there are solutions out there that don’t actually read your mind. At MIT, they’ve developed a device called Alter Ego that doesn’t rely on brainwaves. Instead it listens to what you are subvocalizing and translates this into commands. So, all you have to do is speak silently to yourself, and the AI will interpret your silently spoken words.

What I’ve described here are just the first baby steps toward a world where our phones eventually wind up as chips inside our heads, and the lines between what’s real and virtual begin to blur, allowing us to live in a hybrid universe that is at once digital and material. That’s a future where we’ll look back at today’s smartphones the way we do manual typewriters.

 

About Author: Steven Hoffman, or Captain Hoff as he’s called in Silicon Valley, is the chairman & CEO of Founders Space (FoundersSpace.com), one of the world’s leading incubators and accelerators. He’s also an angel investor, limited partner at August Capital, serial entrepreneur, and author of several award-winning books. These include Make Elephants Fly (MakeElephantsFly.com), Surviving a Startup (SurvivingAStartup.com), and The Five Forces (FiveForcesBook.com).

 

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