Goodbye iPhone, hello bananaphone

11 Jan 2012

Bad news for device makers: in the future, smartphones and tablets will be replaced by bananas and pizza boxes.

Okay, maybe not. But that’s a scenario that researchers at the Ishikawa-Oku lab at the University of Tokyo are developing via the concept of “invoked computing”, which they describe as “a multi-modal AR system able to turn everyday objects into computer interfaces / communication devices on the spot”.

Confused? Think of it this way: invoked computing is sort of like Augmented Reality extended from the touchscreen to the entire room you’re standing in, which can interpret your gestures and movements to impose augmented reality functionality on anything in the room – the wall, a box, a coffee mug, whatever – in order to turn them into a communications interface.

Physorg explains:

There is a banana scenario where the person takes a banana out of a fruit bowl and brings it closer to his ear. A high speed camera tracks the banana; a parametric speaker array directs the sound in a narrow beam. The person talks into the banana as if it were a conventional phone.

It sounds bonkers, but it makes more sense when you watch this video demo from DigInfo:

And even then it still sounds bonkers. Obviously this kind of scenario is at least a decade away from anything close to commercial development, and even when it’s ready, it would have to overcome the biggest barrier of all: humans.

Specifically, humans that have grown up with personal gadgets and like owning them and carrying them around. They’re fashion accessories as much as comms devices. Even as their content moves to the cloud, the hardware still represents a physical token of ownership. If nothing else, people won’t give up their devices until the invoked computing scenario devised by Ishikawa-Oku lab is ubiquitous enough that they won’t need them.

Still, it’s a neat idea, and one that if nothing else could take home networking to a new dimension one day.

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