The mobile phone industry is renowned for its commitment to integrate new technologies into handsets to deliver an ever expanding plethora of functions to the end user. Many of the latest technologies are concerned with adding functions to the handsets to offer more diverse functions to the user. Others, however are more focused on the phone as an article itself and are directly aimed at altering the way in which we interact with these devices.
The Onyx device was launched on Monday August 21st by designer Pilotfish and sensor maker Synaptics. Nothing new in that you may think – there is seemingly a new handset launched every week. And you'd be right, except that the involvement of the sensor manufacturer, Synaptics means that the Onyx is the first mobile phone to have no buttons. No, that's right. No buttons.
The Onyx handset neglects instructions via the traditional button pushing format and instead understands signs and gestures. Synaptic have designed a touch sensitive pad covering most of the Onyx's surface and recognises shapes and body parts. The phone, for example, will pick up a call as you raise the handset to your check.
Synaptics recognise that this could change the way that we interact with mobile phones and is the latest in a line of recent prototypes that focus not on the traditional functionality of the phones themselves, but on our very use and interaction with mobile phones as artefacts. This builds on technology that is already alive and well in the market – the Samsung E900, for example has touch sensitive elements to the keypad and it is widely available from high street shops and online mobile phone retailers. This new prototype, however, represents quite a leap in technology and ergonomics.
The mobile phone industry is in the midst of attempts to ‘humanise’ phones by responding more readily to users’ actions and emotions as opposed to being instructor oriented devices. Also pertinent is the continually prominent status of the mobile phone as a fashion accessory and lifestyle item as opposed to a mere communications tool. The emergence of companies such as GoldVish shows that the market players need to be thing of style as well as substance.
Michael is a keen writer, and internet marketer living in Scotland:
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