Apple has continued to invest in improving display technology, but little has been done with new keyboard input technologies and the rumored “pico projector.” Will Apple finally invest in new user interfaces with the iPhone 6?
There’s no denying the fact that every new iPhone rumor cycle features a wide range of possible new feature, from conservative to wacky. A cool iPhone 5 concept video from yesteryear took the rumor mill by storm by introducing the idea of both a pico projector, which could holographically project whatever the iPhone’s screen was showing onto a wall or even thin air, as well as a holographic keyboard, which would dramatically expand the functionality of the iPhone’s narrow keyboard. Considering that the iPhone 5 saw nothing even approaching this new technology, the pico projector and holographic keyboard seem like pipe dreams at this point.
But is there any reason to believe that the iPhone 6 could feature technology like this?
Samsung has already beaten Apple to the punch with pico projectors. The Samsung Galaxy Beam is their first serious foray into a pico projector on a smartphone, and according to SlashGear, it wasn’t a very good effort on Samsung’s part:
“Details in the official press release paint a picture of a mid-range Android phone with a projector crammed in for good measure. . . it’s not the greatest at 15 lumens, but with something this small that’s hardly a point of contention. Samsung didn’t say what resolution could be projected, but an image as large as 50 inches can be created, presumably with some built-in adjustment tools.”
Of course, this typical of the Android universe: we’ve seen Android phones be “first to market” with new technologies, but have not necessarily perfected and marketed it to any effectiveness. But the point is, the pico projector technology does indeed exist — the possibility is out there.
Engadget reports that, particularly this year, there have been some major breakthroughs in developing pico projector technology that combines ultra-small components with high-quality resolution:
“A team at North Carolina State University has developed a new liquid crystal projector that could spell the end of bulky and noisy cinema gear. Conventional tech passes unpolarized light through a filter, but the process is so inefficient that nearly 50 percent of the energy is wasted just keeping things cool. Fortunately, the Wolfpack and ImagineOptix filter claims to be 90 percent efficient — meaning that future projectors could be far sleeker. It’s also a good sign for future smartphone pico projectors. . .”
Given these advancements, as well as Android’s first attempts, the technology could feasibly be developed for the iPhone 6 — particularly if the iPhone 6 is two years away. However, it remains to be seen if Apple is focusing on improving their UI with holographic projections.
For years, iPhone users have called for iOS to offer some kind of facilitated typing technology similar to swipe, while others have called for a thumb board. Either way, there has been a desire for an easier way to type on an iPhone. Similarly, iPhone users have also asked for a larger screen as well.
Apple answered with Siri and the new elongated screen. Siri’s voice activation is a completely different take on a user interface, and in spite of the fact that we have yet to see Siri become pervasive in mobile computing, Apple seems to have big plans for it. As a result, whether we like it or not, Apple might stand pat with their keyboard, and instead try to shift users from typing to talking in order to traverse their iDevices.
Installing a pico projector for watching video however, is a more plausible possibility.
Not only would pico projection offer a novel feature for watching video, the right technology could also be seen as a nifty business computing function; business iPhone users could bring their entire presentation with them on their iDevice, and project it on-screen in a conference room.
Still, it remains to be seen if we will ever see major hardware breakthroughs like this on the iPhone. What was the last eyebrow-raising hardware advancement on the iPhone? Perhaps the front-facing camera? That was a brilliant idea, to be sure, but you can argue that all of Apple’s recent innovations have been software focused. And this is very much in line with what Steve Jobs proclaimed near the end of his life — that Apple now seeks to innovate with software over hardware. To this end, the iPhone 6′s innovations may turn out to be quite similar to that of the 5: a new form factor, new screen dimension, and improved processor and camera sensors. Those kinds of upgrades may not rouse tech enthusiasts, but they are typically enough to excite the average user.
By Michael Nace