Idea #1: The Universal Portable Interface

First I want to say that I took the basis of this idea from someone else, so I can’t take full credit. However, the concept is irresistible enough that I have to write it out.

The Problem

As we move toward technological ubiquity, there’s a surge of devices emerging all around us. Unfortunately each of these devices has a proprietary interface. This means that we as users must learn how to use each device we interact with. Oftentimes these devices have very similar functions but completely different modes of operation. Typically they use LCD screens for display and knobs or buttons for Human interaction. Some device designers omit LCD displays in favor of cheaper types of displays, like dual mode lights and the like. There’s extra cost for designing, developing and manufacturing the displays, and the costs are rolled into the price.

The Solution

The solution to this extra cost and learning curve is to have a standard mode of communication between devices, input controllers and displays. Once standardization decomposes a device into these three parts, the parts can then be separated, both conceptually and physically.

The long term vision is this: eventually everyone will have a portable communication device that has an LCD-like display and a user-interface for inputs. So, this device will further serve as a universal user interface for all compatible devices. Devices will lose their current user interfaces and will take the form of enclosed objects that emit wireless signals for interaction. The user’s universal interface will be able to discern all devices in the area and identify them by proximity. The universal interface will display a view of the surrounding area with each available device placed appropriately in the space.

A user will be able to look at a device in the area, and easily determine where it is in the display. Once they select it, they will be able to interact with it through their universal device.

The Benefits

The benefits of this type of technology are numerous:
1. Simplicity –Users only need to know how to use one device
2. Cost savings –Devices will no longer need to have extra costs for each interface
3. Interoperability –Devices will be able to communicate with each other through standard means.
4. Extensions –Once devices can be located and identified in space and connected globally, other types of metadata and tools can be attached to them easily. Imagine if SCORM content could be downloaded immediately for a particular device. Imagine further that content could be downloaded specific to your usage of that device.

The Level of Effort

Executing something like this would take considerable effort, especially without contacts in the electronic components industries. This could be first pushed through large stakeholders (like DoD, for example). Other questions revolve around specialized interfaces and how to standardize them without minimizing superior designs. Think ipod.

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