There are a bunch of major trends when it comes to input technologies. Roll-up keyboards are passé, the rage now is flexible, waterproof and food-proof keyboards that are pretty lightweight. Ultra-portability is achieved by pen-sized projectors that can project a keyboard on almost any surface, and these are already in the market. Touchable surfaces with tactile feedback is another area of focus. Be prepared for inputs to invade all kinds of surfaces, from tables, toll booths to advertisements in newspapers. Even the roads are not ruled out. The sky is, however, the limit, which will probably be saved up for displaying the tweets you send in about the food in a restaurant using a digital napkin. Wires will soon be Stone Age technology.
Getting a cheap, flexible electronic display is one of the major challenges that labs around the world are trying to meet. This will save a lot of space and allow for easy mobility. This has been achieved to an extent using LCD technology, but right now only monochrome displays are possible, not great-looking HD displays that are the rage right now. Three-dimensional (3D) and holographic displays have been in the works for a long time, and will probably be a long time coming. Displays in 3D require a lot of effort on the production front. Current holographic technologies involve large spinning mirrors that occupy more space than the hologram itself. What you will be seeing around are portable and immersive entertainment systems such as the Myvu Crystal EV.
Touch screens will go a long way on portable devices, as the technology is getting increasingly cheaper. The keypad might be replaced even on lower-end candy-bar cellphones, and the back surface of the device is an untapped area for further interfacing. This will allow for versatile devices for a wide spectrum of activities, from gaming to communication. Modularity may be another trend, with gaming pads or high-quality video recorder plug-ins available for your hardware. The processing power will soon reach that of desktops in the beginning of the millennium, and being online won’t be a problem at all. If all you want is a functional mobile phone, you may get it as a ring, an earpiece, a bracelet, or even a disposable one where the SIM, circuitry and buttons are all printed on the machine.
Bluetooth and Wi-Fi T-shirts and caps are passé. We’ll soon be putting on much more than clothes. Embedded within the fabric or as strap-on gadgets are a wide range of input and output devices. A lot of these will have easy plug-in to existing systems. The utilities range from easy-to-use cameras, wafer-thin, glove-like cellphones, keyboards that are wired to your fingers and searching for information on the go. Consumer exoskeletons to boost physical strength and agility of the body are under massive development, with military and industrial applications as well. Augmented reality devices, such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s SixthSense (a wearable gestural interface that augments the physical world around us with digital information) will be a major landmark, as this will blur the lines between the digital world and the real one. All of this is without the gadgets getting under our skin.
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