There's nothing I love more than a good ol' concept video. I'm always digging at the future, in search of what we might see in mobile technology in five or even 10 years. Recently, several manufacturers have piqued our interests with a sneak peek into their endgame: LG wants to create flexible, kinetic devices that keep your fingers off of the display, RIM wants to further integrate phones into our personal and work lives with NFC and revolutionary projected interfaces and Samsung wants to also create dynamic, flexible devices.
In a video posted yesterday on YouTube by user Akireksil, a Samsung concept device is shown off. The device is completely transparent – save for the interface objects, of course – and is dynamic. It lies somewhere between a tablet and a smartphone. At the beginning, the man is holding the phone-sized device in one hand as anyone would normally hold a phone. When it rings, he unrolls it into a tablet-sized device, and at roughly six seconds into the video, he pulls at the lower right corner and doubles its width and snaps a picture.
The rest of the video is a first person view of this man making his way through busy streets and to a restaurant, where he places his order (somehow) by holding the device over what appears to be a daily specials menu outside and augmenting the options. Holding the device horizontally, it shows a 3D representation of what he just ordered. He also uses it as a live translator and for simultaneous video calling.
The video is very quick, shaky and slightly confusing (mainly because it isn't in English). The important part, though, is understanding that Samsung truly believes flexible AMOLED panels could change the direction of future of mobile tech.
I will begin by stating the obvious: this device is not real and similar tech is likely to be many, many years away – that is, if it ever arrives. While engineers have managed to make transparent batteries and displays, there are also many other components like wireless radios, chipsets, memory and cameras that are not transparent. In short, a 100 percent transparent device with no bezel is far-fetched, to say the least.
There is also the possibility that the device you see in the picture above is simply a display, maybe a Bluetooth peripheral, and the device itself could remain pocketed. Whatever it may truly be, this is Samsung's vision of where we might be in years to come. Tony Stark would be proud. But the real question is: would you even want a fully transparent phone or tablet?
The video shows off some unique benefits. For instance, the user is able to fully augment a menu (this could also be done with a camera) by simply holding their device over the menu itself and can place an order without ever having to speak to a waitress. If you don't need the extra display space and simply need to make a phone call, you can just un-stretch the device and fold it up for pocketing. Or if you're one to text and walk at the same time, you can still see where you're going through the device without ever having to look up.
On the other hand, the video raises a few other questions about the feasibility of the technology. What would happen if you dropped it? Is it fragile or durable? How do you power it off and on without any physical buttons? Would it have to be completely wireless? If it is powered off, how would you find it again seeing as it is completely transparent? What would something like this cost to make?
None of these questions can currently be answered, of course. After all, it is only a concept. But I'm not so sure the world will be ready for completely transparent devices, even in a decade's time. The idea is novel, but the questions of price and feasibility remain. Will the seemingly rare benefits of a transparent device outweigh the price?
Personally, I'm intrigued by the idea, but not fully sold on it yet. All I've known is fixed, rigid devices that don't magically morph between phone and tablet, so trying to imagine what that is like is a bit difficult. I'm not usually one to scoff at concepts or the future, and I'm probably the last to write off far-fetched ideas. But I feel Samsung is looking decades beyond what we are currently capable of and will be fueling billions into research and development over the next few years. If a device like this were to ever come to market and didn't cost two limbs and a first born, I would certainly give it a go. Until then, I will try to think of a reason a transparent and flexible device would truly be useful.
So, readers, tell me. Do you like the idea of a completely dynamic, transparent and flexible phone (or tablet)? Or do you think this tech would be useless? Unattainable, even?
Image via Akiredsil