In recent articles I’ve explored some of the new technology that was previewed at this year’s CES, the Consumer Electronics Show. The products I’ve highlighted so far are all “in the works,” most of which will be available to the consumer within the year. However, CES is also a platform for innovators and inventors to showcase concept work, technology that promises potential improvements to a multitude of different existing gadgets or software. While these ideas aren’t likely to show up on products in the very near future, some are sure to become part of our day to day lives in the years to come.
The concept of 3D isn’t new – its use in TVs, movies and video games has been prolific in recent years. However, its use in small electronics to improve their functionality isn’t as widespread. At CES 2013, PrimeSense (the company that created the 3D environmental mapping software utilized by Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect) unveiled the Capri, a 3D sensor smaller than any other on the market. About the size of a stick of gum, it carries the potential to “give sight” to a variety of existing products, specifically those previously too small to support the necessary 3D chip. PrimeSense attests that its design is also more affordable than ever before, making it more attractive to manufacturers looking to integrate the technology in their products.
The Capri recreates a complete, live 3D picture of the surrounding area. It holds the potential to automate entry doors, for example, using advanced facial recognition to automatically grant entry to those parties you’ve authorized while denying others. Just about any electronic device could gain the ability to respond to gesture input, from navigating your computer with a wave of your hand to an e-reader automatically moving forward when your eyes reach the end of the page, to mobile-pay options linked to your face instead of your credit card. It even holds promise for safer cars that sense when the driver’s eyes leave the road.
Another interesting product enhancement previewed at CES is the Tactile Touchscreen from Tactus Technology. When activated by the launch of a compatible application, raised buttons appear like magic on an otherwise flat touchscreen surface like a smartphone or tablet computer.
This promises easier typing on glass screens, not only for those of us that get easily frustrated typing on touchscreen devices but for the visually impaired as well. Yet it holds the potential for a great many more creative uses. For example, all-in-one remote controls could change buttons to accommodate the specific function you’re looking to use (channel control when watching TV could be replaced by menu and chapter skip when watching a movie, etc). App makers could integrate the tactile screen function so that customized buttons appear when the app or game was launched, only to disappear automatically when you closed the program.
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Imagine your computer or TV responding to your eye movements, navigating from one program to another or scrolling through a web page without the use of a mouse or keyboard. That’s the idea behind the Tobii Gaze, an eye-tracking prototype demoed by Tobii that matches the users eye movements with keyboard taps to do things like select or scroll through onscreen items. Currently available to developers, it offers quick, seamless navigation and promises an improved digital experience for those with limited mobility.
What I find most intriguing about these inventions is that their functionality isn’t fully flushed out. They aren’t an end product – they’re meant to be licensed by manufacturers to enhance products, meaning the technology may lead to next generation advancement of a multitude of every-day items.