Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The future of mobile communication

There are all sorts of forecasts being made about mobile telecommunications --3G is already here, 4G is already being lined up, how handsets are becoming almost like computers, their battery life going up by 10 times and so on. These things are on the way in the next 4-6 years.
But what about the next 20-25 years? Where are we going with mobile phones in, say, 2030?
By then a lot of things that look futuristic today would have already gone obsolete and routine. To describe a scenario I see emerging, let me first refer to new advances in man-machine interface. There already early products/prototypes that allow humans to control machines just by thought. Earlier these prototypes were invasive, i.e., they had electrodes penetrating the skin but now newer versions are non-invasive. For example, by wearing a hat with such technology, you can move a computer mouse just by thinking up/down/left/right. Though I don't know how they do this, but I think they somehow manage to read your brain signal patterns and then for a particular type of pattern they assign move up command to the mouse cursor.
In other words, they still don't read your thoughts. They just detect a particular signal pattern and map a command against that. So, for example, they could map "up" command to the pattern generated when you think the word "socks" or "donkey" or "t-shirt" or whatever.
This technology has a long way to go but I think in next 25 years it would be possible to marry it with mobiles. When that happens, you will be able to talk to others without even moving your lips, just by thinking! And that will be just a start!
After that, there will be no voice spoken or heard, just thoughts flowing through the mobile network. This will happen a little later because though at the moment engineers are working on how to pick up thought signals, they apparently don't know how to generate thoughts in the brain using electronic devices.
It is needless to say that the phone will be highly miniaturised - the base circuitory could all be in a size of a grain of rice, which might even be embedded in the user's skin or it could be placed in the form of a headband with the headband also capturing thoguht waves. The circuitory could also be placed in the clothes or wrist watch, or who needs a wrist watch if the time is being told to you in your thoughts every second!
This idea here opens fantastic possibilities that I will write more about in next few days. Keep a watch for this space!

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