blackflame2180 (blackflame2180) wrote in strangehonor,

On the doorstep of a bold new world

A while back I did an entry on the bold new future of Larp. Basically, it focused on the use of Smart-Phones and Bluetooth in a Larp setting, to change the way mechanics were resolved.

Since then, I've done some bigger thinking on the bold new future of Smart Phone technology-- or to be more exact, mobile computing.

Carlos once described a rule he'd developed for his Gamma World game regarding Hypertech. Basically, a hypertech item was essentially a basic item, with added features, some useful, some marginally so. So a Cell phone was essentially a "Hypertech Pocketwatch." It told you the time of day, and also allowed you to call, text, surf the web, function as an alarm, sometimes play music, and had lots of less useful features like working as an address book, a limited use as a flashlight, etc.

The advent of Smart Phone technology is really just coming up on us. And there are some bold analogies between the rise of what I believe may first be called the First Information Age, and the Second. Or perhaps, a hundred years from now, this will simply look like another phase of the Information age, which will in turn seem like an expansion of the Industrial Age in a millenia, much as the early Medival period today looks to us like one big period of time covering the fall of the Roman Empire to the Rennaisance.

One of those analogies to the past: the Apple iPhone and the rise of the Macintosh computer. In this analogy, the iPod is essentially like an Apple II. When Apple rolled out the Macintosh, the home computing industry was just starting to launch, and the rise of Microsoft Windows was right around the corner. Similarly, the iPhone, but today it's Google with the Android OS right around the corner.

Think about it; Apple was all sorts of proprietary about their operating system then, and wanted control of the hardware. Then along came Microsoft, producing an OS that any manufacturer could build a machine to run. Google's Android will be a Smart Phone OS which any manufacturer can build a machine to run. Technically, any manufacturer could make a phone to run Palm OS or Windows OS, but what these both lack in critical ways is the ability to interface through the internet to external services. To run back to the Macintosh/Windows analogy, Windows had Internet Explorer, while Macintosh had Netscape, and with these you could surf the Web. Interfacing with the internet was the reason to buy a home computer, and that's why these two dominated the PC market. There were other operating systems that allowed you to do a bunch of stuff on the personal computer-- but it was those two that really allowed you to surf the net. Apple this time will be a bigger competitor, since they have the past to learn from. But Android breaks the manufacturer barrier, much like Windows did, making a stable platform for a ubiquity of software.

This will soon make them affordable to the average person, and when that's the case, then the technology will truly become ubiquitus.

So lets start with what a Smart Phone can do now:


-Make calls
-Interface with your laptop/home computer to carry a bunch of calender information
-Send/Receive e-mail
-Surf the web
-Take pictures
-Take video
-Display video
-Play music
-Send SMS messages
-Limited networking capabilities via WiFi, Bluetooth
-Buy music/video to play on the phone via the web
-GPS navigation

The Importance of the PSP and PS3

Yes, I know. More people have DS (though that's changing), and more people have an XBox, and there are more games for both of these right now.

Sony knows what they're doing, though.

A PSP is already full of nifty side options; it plays music, and video. But now it's also getting a Skype application, and there's a keyboard peripheral on it's way. You can also surf the web a bit. In short, as it stands a PSP is functionally already a Smart Phone without the Phone bit-- and if you use Skypes phone service, it you could technically count it as a Smart Phone that plays high-end mobile games. With a lower cost point, and lots of game developers developing material to it, an integrated next-gen PSP would be an ideal smart-phone. And it's clear that Sony views the PSP as their gateway to mobile computing. Adding a number pad and cellular hardware to a PSP would add maybe $25-$50 bucks to the PSP's current cost of about $180. That's cheap for a Smart Phone. Carried on a Cell provider, with some of that price spread over a two year contract? Even cheaper.

This is even more evident when you start looking at what you will soon be able to do with both a PSP and a PS3. With the next firmware update, you will be able to convert BluRay movies into a mobile format downloadable to your PSP; if both your PS3 and your PSP are connected to the internet, you'll be able to stream video from your PS3 to your PSP, and transfer content back and forth between the two. So you could say store your large MP3 library on your PS3, and then transfer songs back and forth from your PS3 to your PSP. Doesn't sound very impressive? Consider that you can do this while your PS3 is at home on your home wireless network, and you and your PSP are in the airport on say a Starbucks WiFi connection.

Also note that playing a digital movie file is cheaper and less energy intensive than say a portable DVD player or those little minidisks that you can also play on the PSP. Also note that that means you can buy a Blue Ray disc of a movie, get the superior quality of the disk, but also get a mobile version that you can play on your PSP to watch, say, on your morning bus commute.

This gets more impressive down the line.

Sony is also developing a DVR function for the PS3, which they've begun to test in European markets. Tie this in with the streaming, and this is effectively a DVR-esque "Slingbox" straight to your PSP. Meaning even if you're not home, you could say set up your PSP while working a late night at the office, and watch your favorite show while you finish off that report you're working on.

It's also forseeable that eventually the streaming will get good enough that if you have a good enough connection on both sides, you may one day be able to play your PS3 games whever you can get a solid WiFi connection. It would do all the graphics work on the PS3, and then stream in real time to your PSP monitor. That's way better than anything the DS can do, and would mean the end of disparity between mobile games and console games-- mobile platform games would just be the same damn games you play at home on your console.

So imagine all of those capabilities wrapped up into a Smart Phone. Pretty cool, huh?

The Near Future

What it will be able to do in the near future:

Pay for Stuff:

The big one here is that you will soon be able to use your Mobile Phone to pay for stuff. Both Apple and Google have applied for patents on pay-by-Mobile-Phone systems. When the technology become ubiquitous, that will mean a transition from a 'plastic economy,' (wherein many people pay by credit card/debit card for everything, instead of cash) to a digital economy, where everything is payed through digital transactions, kind of like how a lot of selling is now done via the web with places like Amazon, or with Paypal. That will mean an entire different way of doing business.


The next biggest one is advertising to mobile. I know, this one sounds somewhat farfetched-- why would you want advertisements delivered to you by phone? But imagine that this isn't intrusive. Imagine, for example, that you just got out of a movie with your friends, and you want to go somewhere to hang out. You open your phone, and click on a couple buttons, and you have an array of coupons delivered to your phone for some local dining options-- delivered via the cell phone tower your phone is connected to. That turns the advertising from something unwanted-- an unsolicited text message for example-- to something useful, something you would want to use.

Not only does it tell you about local restaurants, but it gives you a bargain at them too. It will go beyond that, though, with potential Bluetooth technology. Imagine that you go to a mall, and you have an advertising application downloaded to your phone. You turn it on, and as you walk through the mall, you receive bargain offers from the stores as you walk past them. Walk past the Gap, and you get a $5 off coupon, or walk by the food court and get a discount at the Panda Express. The advertisements are opt-in, but you get a 'speacial deal' for opting in, and the retailer gets business they might not have if not for their advertisement. Everyone profits.

Take it a step further, though. Say you go to Google and search for something-- say you search for Antiques. You're doing it through your mobile phone, however. Google takes your search, but it contextualizes it based on what cell phone tower it is being received from. It searches it's advertising database for antique shops in that area whom are advertising with Google, and it prioritizes those links over say links for Antique shops in another city, perhaps even serves them to you first. That's better service to you, money for the antique shop, and money for Google.

And it's good for the mobile networks. It would essentially turn all those cell-phone towers into billboards for local businesses-- new advertising that is locative and context specific. Companies like Verizon and Sprint can take in money by offering such advertisements on their cell phone towers. This will in turn encourage them to build more such towers, with more bandwidth, to expand the network and make it more accessible, because this accessibility not only improves their service to their customers, but their ability to serve as an advertisement platform.

Buy big-Media:

I think the biggest breakthrough on this one will be when Apple opens the mobile iTunes to Android platforms, and produces an Adroid App that allows you to play iTunes songs (or eventually, drops the DRM altogether). It'll be like iTunes opening up to Windows users. They'll be able to sell you video too. Imagine, though, going to a book store, and being able to comparison shop, and then purchase stuff online. But it goes beyond Media. Imagine buying books that could be read on your mobile phone, kind of like Amazon has developed the Kindle to do. The hardware with Kindle and a Smartphone is very similar, after all. And comics are becoming available for purchase online too. Video games are already a big Mobile market. You can already buy music through your cell phone provider, but imagine how much more common this will be when you can do it for a reasonable price through third party vendors. On the Metro, with a hankering for that song you heard on the radio? Buy in on iTunes for a low price and scratch that itch. Catch up on your favorite TV show while taking a road trip. Etc. etc.

Synergy between Buy/Advertise/Pay

Imagine that the three of these are all combined, though. So you can go shopping at the mall, where you can get say an advertisement from say Panda Express-- buy a Combo meal with your mobile phone, get a free iTunes song downloaded to your mobile. Shop at Target, get the latest single from Brittney Spears. Shop at Best Buy, and get a free episode of the NBC show of your choice with purchase of $20 or more.

That's big advertising bucks that gets people in the stores to buy things. Which has been the hard thing in selling digital media-- it's hard to get people advertise with digital media. DVR lets you skip TV commercials, radio advertisments go away with satellite radio or digital music players, etc. But if you get a free song everytime you buy at Target, that's a gaurenteed way to link digital media with digital music. And it's much easier to effect when that song becomes immediately availabe on your smart phone, instead of being something you have to go back to your computer, enter a speacial code, then download to your computer, and then to your media player.

But wait, there's more;

Mobile Dating

If you thought online dating was big, wait until the advent of mobile dating.

Imagine: you fill out a profiile online, like your average dating site. Then you download an App to your smartphone, which in turn downloads your profile. You go out for the night, and you turn the App on your Mobile phone on. Via Bluetooth, your phone uses your profile to find compatible people near you who also have the app turned on. if you come across someone with a compatible profile, a message pops up on your phone, and on theirs. Your read the profile, and decide whether or not you're interested in talking to the other person. They do the same. If both of you are interested in talking to eachother, whalla, your phones provide you an image of the other person, and you can start a conversation. Which is way more personal than internet dating, and gets past that awkward "S/he's cute, but I bet she'd never be interested in me" thing. The great thing is that you can do it while out being social already-- with your friends, at your favorite club, bookstore, whatever. And it gets rid of that awkward 'We met on the internet thing." You can say "we met on the Metro," or "at this resteraunt" or whatever.

Video messaging

Video messaging will get bigger, as more people will have handsets that send and receive them. Already happening with the iPhone.

Audio Recording:

Soon, someone is going to realize that you can set one of these things up not only to play an MP3, but to record one. And then your Smart Phone will also be a portable audio recorder.

Portable Storage

Who needs a memory stick when you have a smart phone that connects by Blue Tooth or USB to your Laptop/Desktop and function as a portable hard drive, with a decent amount of storage?

Metro/Bus maps

Imagine an App that took your nearest cell phone tower, or better yet, your GPS location, and told you the fastest way to get to a destination based on local Metro or Bus schedules-- and would tell you when the next train arrived, or the next bus arrived. Pretty useful for public transit users, huh?

FM/Digital Radio/Digital TV

This is already starting to become an option, with the Radio, and should have been one a long time ago. With more sizable screens, and a new digital television reception signal, it should also be easier to display live TV broadcast over the airwaves on a hand-held device-- like a smart phone.

Digital Newspapers

Ok ok, so you can go online and read your news. Imagine, though, that all you had to do to pick up today's copy of the Post was be in blue-tooth range of a Newspaper bin, and that it would upload a nice, tidy, book-like version of the news to your SmartPhone. Worth 25 cents? You betcha. Read the paper on your smartphone, instead of hardcopy, and listen to your MP3s on the phone. That's money. Also, they could offer some multi-media coverage as well, exclusive to the digital editions of the paper. Hell, that's worth a subscription, if it's cheap enough-- it'd effectively be a newspaper-podcast kind of thing.

Medical Records

A digital medical wrist-bracelet-- it contains all of your drug allergies, and some of your medical charts. Carry your medical records with you wherever you go. When in blue tooth range of an ambulance or a hospital computer, it beams the info to your doctor.

Dietary management

Every time you eat something, enter into an App on your Smart Phone. It calculates how many calories you've consumed in a day, what vitamins your low on-- and offers up suggestions on what (or where) to eat. Think of this as Weight Watchers on steroids... instead of just counting Carbs, it counts everything, and keeps you on a healthy diet, while allowing you to eat flexibly. It will even offer up menu items from major food chains, or suggest things to buy at the grocery store based on your eating habits and dietary needs.


I'm betting the gentlemen of Strange Honor can come up with an even bigger plethora of things a Smart Phone could do in a market where they are ubiquitous, and not the province of the buisiness elite.

So, what's your concept?
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