The First Truly Immersive Smartphone

Once more the banging of drums could be heard resonating through the streets of New York. Instead of a speaker proclaiming the arrival of “King Kong, the eighth wonder of the world”, Samsung unveiled its latest Galaxy S smartphone, the S4. The new smartphone was brought onto the stage by a little boy meeting JK Shin in the middle of the platform. The S4 follows on from S3’s arrival back in May 2012, less than twelve months ago. The smartphone models have some mild differences in shape, size, sleekness, and weight. We can note the strong trend for larger screen sizes as more people use their mobile devices for internet browsing and watching multimedia which the experience is arguably heightened with a larger smartphone. The term phablet springs to mind. Nevertheless, what really struck me about Samsung’s latest Galaxy release were its “eye tracking, scrolling, and air gesture”, and wireless charging features. We are finally seeing a shift in aware technologies in mobile to immersive combined with ambient.

This new smartphone could potentially leave all other smartphones behind. The mobile device industry has been complaining for some time that the real innovation in the market has gone. Most of today’s new smartphone look identical and users interact with their devices in virtually the same way as any other smartphone. Samsung’s new eye tracking and gesture recognition features, “smart scroll/pause” and “air gesture/view” will be the start of the evolution for completely touchless phones. Although some people may think these new features may seem like extra novelty items, we may be witnessing a new trend for how to interact with our devices, touchless. As touchscreen smartphones have virtually cannibalized keyboard smartphones, we will see the trend of touchless featured smartphones slowly doing the same thing.

A big question will be how much cost can mobile vendors save by eliminating the touchscreen element from their displays. My thoughts are probably not very much. Additionally, for the time being, users will always want some element of control via touch, however, users can be taught over time that eye tracking and voice recognition may be more than suffice for operating and navigating their device. This could highlight a possible consideration that we are witnessing a breakdown or lesser reliance on the physical contact with our device. Furthermore to emphasis this point, we are possibly seeing rise of wearable computing technologies are making a strong case for a completely touchless experience such as smart glasses. MEMS sensors are omnipresent in the mobile market and these components are allowing vendors to understand and collect more data about mobile device users.

The ultimate goal of a computing device, be it a smartphone, personal computer, or activity tracker, is to understand what the user is doing, provide the most convenient easy and natural method of interaction, provide a high level of accuracy in the data which is quantifiable and requires the least amount of hassle to maintain. Samsung’s new eye tracking and gesture recognition features are addressing the first two points. Samsung’s eye-tracking feature has gone a step beyond vision based gesture recognition. The next step is reading the user’s thoughts.

A smartphone that knows where you want to go, what items you are interested in, and when you’re not looking at it without touching the device is truly remarkable. The device will provide a fully immersive experience and as yet, no other smartphone vendor has come close to releasing something of real significance from an interaction perspective