(Picture Source: Mickeyeatsplastic.com)
I'll admit it, I am a scifi geek. I've been obsessed with speculative fiction since I was a kid and the truly amazing thing about books like Neuromancer or Snow Crash is that many of the heady predictions about future technology have come true much faster then people have realised. But there's one area science is still letting me down in: integrating computer systems into the human body. Which is strange because looking at modern technology and especially smartphones, I think it just might be possible to build smartphone technology into the human body today.
Now, now I know this sounds strange but bare with me here. This isn't just some hairbrain idea; I honestly think it would be possible to build a smartphone interface that is almost invisible to an outside observer. But before we get ahead of ourselves, we should ask one questions: Why would you want to incorporate a smartphone into the human body in the first place?
While I'm temped to just say, because you can, let's think of the possibilities. Imagine a smartphone, who's screen were your own eyes and who's speakers were your own ears. Sound and information would be transmitted wirelessly and discretely; you could enjoy your favourite movies and music anywhere you wanted to and you wouldn't disturb anyone. Imagine an augmented reality app constantly running in the background of your visual field feeding you information about your surroundings; you'd never be lost and never out of ideas where to go on a Saturday night. Finally, imagine having an integrated projector allowing you to project anything you wanted onto any surface so you and your friends could not only watch movies and go online but also play games on a virtual game field generated by your smartphone. It might sound like a pipe-dream but researchers are working three technologies that just might make such a device possible sooner then you think.
LED Contact Lenses
This would serve as the crux of our hypothetical integrated cellphone. Researchers at the University of Washington recently introduced the world to a prototype for the worlds first wireless LED contact lenses. The lenses rest comfortably on the eye and are completely transparent until their receive a signal which then causes them to spring to life, displaying a high resolution image only millimetres from the eye. They are powered by a resonance antenna, meaning that power is remotely transmitted from a belt pack or other external source. This would provide a convenient housing unit for the smartphones' bigger components like processor and battery. Conceivably you could place all the bulky smartphone pieces in a single case, similar to current cellphones, but if you combined the transparent LED contact lenses with a small Bluetooth headset you would have no need for a display and you would never have to take your phone out of your pocket to use.
But how would you control the the phone if you're using a completely hands free system?
Eye tracking technology
Eye tracking systems have been in use for year now as a way to assist handicapped individuals and consumer and consumer applications are already showing up around the tech. world. By combineing the built-in sensors in the LED contacts, you suddenly have the ultimate in hands-free display system.
So our theoretical smartphone now has a case and a display but part of the fun of smartphones is sharing what you're watching or doing with others and as cool as integrated contact lens displays would be, it would be annoying to have to pop them out each time you wanted to show a friend the latest from Youtube or Facebook. So how would you go about letting other people in on the fun?
Featuring a pico projector and a depth sensing camera, the Omnitouch turns any surface into a touch screen. The technology debuted back in October but is essentially an advanced Kinect system that takes advantage of each and every surface available to project an input field for a smart device.
While it's first version is a shoulder mounted system, if it can be reduced in size it could easily be mounted in our hypothetical smartphones' casing. Now design that bad boy with an Omnitouch projector that would stick slightly out of most pockets or even be mounted in a large watch and you have an integrated hands-free system that not only projects media into directly into your field of vision and hearing but also can be shared with your friends.
But such a system would be expensive and you wouldn't want everyone to have access to such an intimate piece of technology so how would you keep it safe?
Implanted RF chips
Back in '98, the first scientist experimented with implanting RF chips in the human hand. They were passive implants that produced a radio signal that the scientist used to unlock doors and gain access to computer systems. Implanting that chips took less the 5 minutes and were barely noticeable by the patents who received them. Chips like this could be used to key our hypothetical smartphone of the future to a certain individual meaning that no one with out the chip could unlock the device much the way an electronic keycard works.
So there we have it. A computer system fully integrated into the human body based on current technology. So have we just postulated the next Nexus device? Probably not. But with smartdevices becoming more and more integrated into our lives with each passing month such an futuristic smartphone system my not be as fair off as some might think.
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