Friday, February 08, 2008

Mobile Phone Innovations – User Interfaces

Mobile phone innovations continue to emerge in several directions. Over the coming weeks, we’ll look at some of these innovations. First up is the user interface. Certainly, the iPhone was a game changer on this front with its multi-touch screen. The key innovation (aside from a decent size screen) is the fact that the screen can take multiple inputs from the user which is called multi-touch.

Other technologies emerging into the mainstream include electronic paper which is based on OLED technology.

Samsung just launched a mobile phone that uses gesture recognition, similar to the Wii. In the Samsung phone, the user can skip from one song to the next by shaking it back and forth. Microsoft is rumored to be working on a gesture recognition feature in its Mobile 7 software. Instead of using accelerometers or gyroscopes, it plans to use the camera to detect motion. The other approach is to use cameras to view the user’s body and detect motion which it translates into commands for the device. GestureTek is a leader in this field.

Another trend coming to mobile phones is the glanceable display which like a wrist watch provides a simple interface for conveying a piece of information. In this example, the software pushes a Google calendar to a display which changes color indicating an upcoming appointment, along with the current date and time. These displays would be useful in setting up a monitoring system using color to indicate the status of the network or unit under control.
By using built-in projectors on the mobile (see last week’s blog post) the mobile phone could project a glanceable display in the same way the military uses “heads-up” displays projected on the cockpit window. Microvision is one company pioneering in this direction.

Predictive texting reduces the number of keystrokes required to input a word on the mobile phone. Instead of pressing each key multiple times to select the correct letter of the word, the user presses the key only once for each letter and the software figures out what word the user is trying to enter. While it appears to be useful in some applications, there’s a great deal of pushback from users who have trouble mastering it. Check out this post for the contrarian view.

Best regards,
Hall T.

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