There’s a lot of speculation on the net, all the time these days, about the Next Big Gadget. People seem to be constantly photoshopping up new fake images of the next model of iPod as they want everyone else to believe it will look.
I am not immune to this: I still occasionally sit down and try to work up a plausible design for an unobtrusive, powerful, useable wearable computer. I also ponder the profusion of technologies like the iPhone’s screen or the latest stab at stylus-based input, and think to myself: what is the ideal handheld interface, anyway?
Today though, a news article about a display that functions as an image sensor, courtesy of Slashdot, has collided with something I remember reading a long time ago, about flat, lensless 3D image-capture devices, and a real, marketed 3D display technology I’ve seen more recently.
The collision of ideas is obvious if you think about it:
- The camera on your camera phone mostly captures images for transmission and/or electronic display, even if you don’t have a videophone.
- Transmission of images is helped by good compression. One such method of transmission (presently infeasible) would be to break a real-world image down into a 3D mesh or similar abstract vector-based model. If I understand the ScienceDaily article aright, this is precisely the kind of data that your lensless camera gives you first! Making that into a 2D image would take work, but why bother if your display is 3D anyway?
- A common way to look at those images, especially on a videophone, is on the screen of the same, or another such phone.
The potential phone-of-the-future that this presents is really obvious: It looks just like an iPhone; a flat little tablet with a screen covering its entire surface, except that there’s no little port for a camera on this one, the screen is the camera. So long as phones continue to be used as cameras as well, there will probably be a screen/camera on both sides of your future-phone. If you like, the screen on the back can display a precise 3D rendition of your head when you hold it up to your ear, so that it looks transparent. In fact, why not do that all the time, so that the phone always looks transparent? Take that Aqua! To take a photo you just hold up your empty phone-frame, and press the button on the side…
And that’s just a nifty side-effect. The main reason for doing this would be the 3D video-phone functionality! Not to mention crazy little tricks like each surface being an image scanner. You want to show someone an article you’re reading, or save it for later? You don’t need to line up a photo of it and hope your camera resolution doesn’t give you blurry text, you just slide the phone over the page. Either way up, it doesn’t matter.
This is, of course, wild speculation, as these things always are. I can think of half a dozen reasons why this might not work as suggested just off the top of my head.
That’s not to say I wouldn’t buy one if someone were to build it. 🙂