Communication: Today’s Concepts, Tomorrow’s Phones


Keyboard on demand

Although mobile devices are getting quite powerful, many people still find it difficult to type long documents using on-screen keyboards.

A technology being developed by Tactus Technology could provide a more comfortable way to type in future phones. The company’s prototype touchscreen can show up a user-friendly QWERTY keyboard on demand. This involves replacing a touchscreen phone’s window or cover lens with a special tactile layer, which works based on the principles of micro-fluidics.

According to the company, “Small fluid channels are routed throughout the tactile layer and enable the fluid to expand the top polymer layer to create physical buttons.” This enables the buttons to bubble up when needed and flatten out when not in use. A controller is used to control the state of these buttons, while an application programming interface allows integrated software/application based control.

Build your own future phone

All of us have a vision of our future phone. How nice it would be if we could build it ourselves? That is what Dave Hakkens’ Phonebloks project aims to achieve. This ongoing project, which started in 2012, aims to make a phone completely modular. It works towards a future where you can just assemble your own phone using building blocks. When you want to upgrade, simply change the blocks you wish to. If you have a great idea, build a new component and add it.

Google is into this great idea, too, with Project Ara. If you could get a basic phone for US$ 50 and turn it into an advanced smartphone by adding all the great stuff you want, the company believes that that could lower the entry barriers in this industry. According to Google, it all starts with an endoskeleton, or endo, the structural frame and data backbone of the device. The user can populate the endo with modules, the building blocks that make up the vast majority of the phone’s functionality and features.

The modules can be easily and safely inserted and removed at any time, even while the device is powered on. The modules also have user-replaceable covers or shells, which provide a creative canvas for users to make their phones look exactly as they wish.

Other modular phone efforts include Xiaomi Magic Cube, PuzzlePhone and FonKraft. If you look at most of these modular phone projects, you will realise that these are not working against each other, but together in many ways—something that the future needs!

Modular phones would not only foster innovation but also reduce a lot of e-waste, helping a sustainable future. These would also do away with the frustration that many of us face when we have just shelled out thousands of rupees to buy a phone, only to realise within a few months that the next generation is already here. If you love the idea of building your own phone, share your efforts and ideas to make these projects a success.

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Janani Gopalakrishnan Vikram is a technically-qualified freelance writer, editor and hands-on mom based in Chennai



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