Jorge Villalobos
Ideas, technology and the occasional rant

Friday, December 23, 2005

Future gear

I need to learn to keep my promises better. I haven't posted once on this break, and I said I would be doing much more of that these days. Well, a lot has happened, so time has been way too short. With my parents in town, end of semester, grades, money, and my upcoming trip to the UK, things have been quite hectic. Still, it has been good. But I will be doing some posting next week. I promise... and I'll try to keep my promise.
You know who else keep breaking promises? Those damn future "visionaries" that keep talking about all the cool technology we'll have in the "near future". Ah, yes, the future. I think it was called "the year 2000" when I was a kid. Flying cars, talking appliances, small comput... ok, so a couple of things have worked out, but most are just promises. Promises that will may not come. I mean, we have planes crashing into buildings and destroying them, do we really want every single driver (let's picture this driver drunk for a second) handling his own personal mini-plane?
I. Think. Not.
Where's my future, then?
So, anyway, what I wanted to discuss today was some realistic future gear that I think is missing. I think we need to improve our watches so that they become a better planning tool. Right now we have watches on on hand, and daily planners on the other, but they should be working hand in hand.
Now, here's where the difficulties begin to appear. Daily planners have to be big. They need a relatively big screen to show a calendar, and some input device such as a keyboard to add appointments, choose dates, whatever. Wrist watches, on the other hand, are relatively small and simple. A couple of buttons are you're set to go. How can we bring them together without making everything a mess?
Well, I think people would be willing to sacrifice a little comfort for a lot of extra functionality. I think watches could be a little bigger in order to hold a cleverly compacted daily planner. I was thinking something in the line of a watch that opens all the way across, like a powder box. When opened, one half would hold a small screen, and the other would hold the input interface. What I'm thinking is that, when open, the interface will expand to the sides somehow, duplicating (maybe) the visible area. The input interface would probably be a touchpad, to keep things small.
How is this better than the normal daily planners? Well, I think it's very convenient to hold everything in your watch, as it is easier to access and harder to lose. It's probably easier to listen to the alarms and see what they're about.
But there's some impossibility in what I propose. Chips are not small enough yet, or cheap AND small enough, to be more accurate. What else can be done? This is where my second idea comes from (see, I'm brainstorming here). I think we need a central gadget holding most of the processing and storage capabilities of all of our carry-on gadgets, i.e. watch, planner, cellphone, PDA, etc. I think these devices should only be interfaces to the central computer (if you will), allowing them to be smaller and more focused on their specific purposes, without worrying to much about external issues, such as physical space and storage media.
So, how would this work? I'm thinking these devices should provide the UI, be it a touchscreen, buttons, display, you name it, and communicate with the central device through a wireless channel. This means that all devices would be using a standarized protocol of communication with the central device, allowing hardware and software to be optimized for that specific communication scheme. The central device would be the brain and memory for everyone, and the other devices would just be clients.
Yes, I'm talking about a walking wireless network/person. Now I sound like all these "visionaries", don't I? Well, I think this is doable, and if it isn't done, then it's probably because the idea is stupid or impractical. I don't know. As I said before, I'm no expert.
It will be easier for people just to carry some cellphone-sized PC on their bags, purses, or even pockets, and then just have very (literally) lightweight interfaces to deal with. I would go for it, I know that much. It would also give more freedom to device makers, as they will probably have a lot more space and processing power than before, with the small penalty of sharing hardware with other devices. Also, I don't know how safe it is to become a walking wireless hotspot... a lot of people already are, though. Just to clarify, I'm talking about health. There's also the security issue. Should these communication be encrypted? I think it should. It's likely to be private information and it shouldn't be easily tapped into. I wonder if cell phone conversations are encrypted. I'm guessing they're not.
Will my crazy visions come true someday? Some will, I know that much. These ones, not my best work, but still interesting topics of discussion. Maybe someday I'll see one in the street, smile, and call my lawyer to sue whoever stole my idea :). I wouldn't, I'm not that style of crazy. I promise, promise, promise more, hopefully interesting posts soon. Until then, start working on those watches. I could use one.

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