Monday, 25 March 2013

"The future is (nearly) here and it's idiotic"

Sometime during the controversial launch of the Samsung S4 smartphone last week I picked up the following tweet, 'Eye scrolling. The future is (nearly) here and it’s idiotic' The tweet related to the innovation within the new Samsung smartphone that means that the interface will now track your eye movements and automatically scroll accordingly. The smartphone has been greeted with mixed reactions, from the tweet above, to some with a slightly warmer embrace LG certainly are taking issue with it, as they feel it may be infringing their patent.

A step too far?
The negative reaction does however engender some questions about the pace of innovation. In a recent discussion with an executive at Imagination Technology the computer chip technology manufacturers that help drive the graphics for mobile devices like the iPhone and tablet computers, he stated that we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg in terms of technology roll out and that there was an innovation roadmap that went on for years. When we put it to him that this might simply not fit with what consumers actually want he replied 'What are we supposed to do? Stop innovating?' It’s a fair point, but something makes us feel we may be hitting a crossroads.

Unwanted innovation
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about Google Glass and on-wrist technology being developed by Apple and indeed Samsung. While these products play well in geekier circles the noise from the average citizen seems to suggest that people just 'won't want it' and as these innovation announcements become more mainstream news there seems to be an increasing backlash. So how should we be approaching new innovation?

There is a tendency in industry to chase the 'new'. But with the new coming like a tsunami and from every angle, business' ability to use it to its advantage is gradually being eroded. Indeed, if we are to assume that consumers are actually getting tired of constant 'new' perhaps it’s time to consolidate our thinking and start looking at pragmatic implementation of technologies so that people can better use what they already have. Let's make apps with a fantastic user experience. Let's make video that works on all platforms.Let’s make websites work on a mobile. In short let’s give people what they want to make their life easier, not what the technologists think might be cool.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

The future of mobile is wearable

There's been a lot written over the past few years about the future of mobile. Much of it has been accompanied by ‘Tomorrow's World’ type predictions. In the past year or so however, those predictions have started to gain real credibility. Two projects in particular have been making waves since Christmas.

Project Glass
Project Glass, something that Google gave us a view of in late 2011, has been gaining momentum; both in the rumour-stakes and seemingly in its route to commercial development. Since its first announcement, Sergey Brin has been seen out and about on the New York Subway wearing a pair. Soon after that this concept video was released outlining just what the capability of this wearable tech may be.

There has been understandable scepticism about whether the project is just a scam and if not, whether it's actually commercially viable. However, there is emergent chatter that suggests that not only are they likely to be 'relatively' affordable but that actually, they may be available within the year.

That timescale would be astonishing frankly. Whether the time frame is correct or not, the reality is, the project definitely seems to be on the way. What is certain, as Forbes points out, is that the controlled leaking is a master stroke of market pre-conditioning. What the public appetite is, is yet to be assessed properly, but some are speculating it could be something like this.

Last year Nike released the Fuel Band, a wearable interactive band that augments your exercise regime. With its rather nebulous Fuel Points system, Nike say it is able to help you monitor the level of exercise you are undertaking more efficiently and with seamless integration with your social profiles it is definitely the smartest and most human-integrated item in the emergent wrist band market.

More interestingly, it was rumoured that Sir Jonathan Ive of Apple had bought dozens of boxes of the devices to work out how he could make it better. He's already done it with the MP3 player, the smartphone and the tablet so when rumours of iWatch popped up there was understandable excitement.

The wrist seems to have been the obvious place for the phone to go, ever since David Hasselhoff started chatting to Kit. Given they appear to no longer be the darlings of the smartphone market it's probably time for Apple to zag, as the industry zigs its way through MWC 2013 and potentially launch a product later on in the year. If it happens, it would be the first significant announcement since Steve Jobs’ death and would most likely smooth the bumps in the share price that have emerged since disappointing iPhone and iPad sales in Q4 2012.

Wrist or face?
2014 could see the biggest battle fought over your face, or your wrist and ultimately maybe it’ll come down to what you’re most comfortable with, or maybe what looks cooler. At this very moment we’re going for Project Glass, but that’s probably because we know just that little bit more about it at the moment.