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Here's an interesting perspective from +Kit Eaton at +Fast Company: smartphones have coalesced around a single, monolithic form factor.

Do you think a plateau in mobile hardware stifles innovation? Or does this standardization open the door for more cross-platform software opportunities?
smartphonesAhead of the Mobile World Congress event next week dozens of new smartphones are being revealed or teased to stir up the tech press, get potential customers excited, and, of course, drum up...
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+David Jacobs If by dead you mean the standard for mobile computing, I agree. The same way that I agree that the "revolution is dead" because we've gone a few months without a major upgrade. Seriously people, do you realize how freakishly rapid progress has been with these mobile computers? Your expectations (+Think with Google) have been blown WAY out of proportion and you need to give the market a bit to catch up. The reason we're not seeing major innovations (like built-in laser projectors, dual-screens, etc..) more is because there's no incentive for the OEMs to provide these things when everyone is gladly sucking up every minor change that requires almost NO investment in R&D or manufacturing processes. When there's a significant reduction is purchasing of the incrementally improved devices rolling out, THEN we will once again see major change. Android for example (as we've seen) is geared to do some very significant things in terms of hardware support and UI changes. Imagine for example a built in projector that could provide a 12" screen from a device less than 5" tall that used 1/2 front-camera(s) to provide minority-reports (can we say Kinect) like interactions. The tech is there. The financial incentive to move forward just isn't yet. It's the EXACT same market behavior we see with Hard-disk storage capacities. What we see on the shelves is always 1+ years behind what the manufactures COULD do at a profit, but as long as they're cashing in on the current capacities knowing they can then sell you a larger drive 3-6 months later (doubling profit), why would they release the larger drives? Get it?
I've been active in mobile since 2000, and I have to say that even back then we were debating whether the USA would benefit from the more socialist leaning European method of the state setting a technological standard versus the Market. I think since 2000, the free market has determined the form-factor standard. You sure are not going to convince me the past 12 years of different OSs and Formfactors was all for nothing. If this isn't the market driven standard, I don't know what is.
+David Jacobs I did, and I respectively disagree with the result. In 2 to 4 years, the smartphone will be going strong, more so than now, where it is only now getting to surpass feature phones in numbers sold. The era of people wearing Google Goggles is a long way off yet, if it will even occur in the manifestation of dorky glasses people don't want to wear if they don't have to. It will take those years to get such technology at acceptable prices for the average person, and even then, convincing people to have a smartphone and these wearable units, is another matter entirely.
+Nick Edwards I don't think anyone but early-adopters would have both a smartphone and AR glasses. By the time they go mainstream (and I happen to agree with +David Jacobs that it will be 2-4 years), the AR glasses will be able to do everything the phones can and much, much more.

As for the 'dorkiness' factor, do you remember the days where the only handheld computer screen you would see people using in public was that of the GameBoy, or the PSP? People seem pretty comfortable with all that now, and I think they will get comfortable with AR glasses too (especially given the potential for awesome designs and promotions). 'Nerd' culture has a habit of spreading to the mainstream, probably by virtue of its inherent technological basis.
+Michael-Rainabba Richardson, thanks for the in-depth response. I'm certainly not interested in converting everyone to my way of thinking; the product ecosystem will eventually do that. My interest is in engaging with the small minority that share my vision, so that we can exchange ideas and collaborate, being at the forefront of innovations as these new capabilities emerge. From a business standpoint, the vast disruptive potential is extremely compelling. A naysayer majority is a vital component. :)
+Joel Kalmanowicz: Agreed.

I'm not an unequivocal fan of Apple, but when their design for AR glasses hits the market, I seriously doubt that "dork" will be the social connotation!

Teenagers will be the heaviest early-adopter demographic. Tinted glasses hide your eyes; in a sense, they isolate you from those around you. Display screens (with connections to your friends), mean that your world is in front of you - but private. It's the ultimate teenager product. The ultimate marketing slogan? "It's Your World" or "My Reality"
Yeah the Apple iEye (... cap'n!) or perhaps more realistically, iSpecs could certainly be a fashion phenomenon for the nerdy and chic alike. But I heard they're focusing more on the SmartWatch direction and so thought they'd be behind the game. Are they doing both?

Either way, yes the opportunities will be explosive! Especially in terms of applications for the glasses. We like working on our laptops, tablets, and phones to work on the way to work, where we have a desktop (or plug our laptop in). Once we use the one device (glasses) for all those purposes, I think the cubicle could go extinct. Unrestricted by today's relatively clunky real/virtual interfaces, workplaces could be transformed into locations providing creative, inspiring, ergonomic collaborative work_spaces_ for team projects. In the meantime, anyone could be productive (to greater or lesser extent) anywhere. And then there's education--and we're only just getting started. Imagine combining that kind of working and educational life with the crowdsolving described at +Solve for X. For example, we could fold 3D virtual proteins in front of our faces while on the ferry to our workspace. It's very exciting! =D

+Joel Kalmanowicz, see:

Referencing: and

I'm not saying that Apple isn't working on a SmartWatch, but I'm also not jumping to the popular conclusion that this precludes R&D on glasses. Presumably they are still abiding by Jobs' maxim about self-cannibalization, and his notion that "if we don't do it to ourselves, someone else will."

Also, from patent news this week, see "A Dual Image Sensor Image Processing System": -

Also, in that update above, see "Motion Plane Correction for Micro-Electro-Mechanical-Based Input Devices" for the Magic Mouse. One might speculate about some uses for those input technologies that no one seems to have noticed yet. Given your recent comments about the glove interface, you probably know what I'm thinking, Joel. Rethink that watch. ;)
Interesting to see some of the cogs in the R&D machines at work, thanks +David Jacobs ! And good point on their multiple research directions, maybe we'll see an iGlove too. Going back to +Think with Google's original question, it looks like my answer here is that if anything, a plateau encourages innovation by leaving open opportunities for competitive edges (such as AR glasses), and a certain degree of standardization is definitely helpful for developers.
Smartphones are far away from an evolutionary dead end. Even if you stop adding features. It still cannot completely replace feature phone, media player, navigator, data storage or a compact camera, which is all a smartphone concept is about.
Yuriy, I respectfully disagree: all the features you have named are getting smaller and very easily integrated into different hardware form factors such at AR glasses. Any difficulties presented by the small volume (e.g. providing more 'local' RAM or CPU power) can be sidelined by offering external upgrade modules. Think a 'power pack' of computing goodies that you carry in your pocket or backpack which is linked either wirelessly or by a well-designed bus to the glasses. Whether internal or external, such a modular approach also offers the advantage of being techie-friendly and easily upgradeable piece be piece, rather than forcing consumers to purchase the entire product in its newest iteration, even when some of the hardware has barely changed.

By the by, the smartphone form factor could also be integrated into the glasses system as a transitionary UI device providing such external modularity. How's that for hardware innovation? :)
+Joel Kalmanowicz I agree. I just wanted to say, that even the current form-factor (flat device with a screen) is very far away from a dead end. I mean these features are getting smaller, but they are not good and small enough to fit into a smartphone.
Fair enough +Yuriy Kulikov :) the flat screen/device hardware form factor does have a ways to go yet. I do think it will be made obsolete quickly (by historical standards at least: I give it a decade at most)
Laptops, tablets, pads, smartphones of various sizes - each of these, when first introduced, lead to crazes of rapid adoption. Smaller, larger, smaller, larger...

The problem is fundamental. We are not satisfied with the trade-offs between portability and the desire for large displays. Each "new" form factor is indicative of dissatisfaction with the former choices. The dissatisfaction is driving the experimental adoption, as new hope is sold again and again, but ultimately disappoints. One thing is certain: this will not be resolved until the fundamental problem is solved, with no trade-off between large displays and portability. We can disagree on which type of solution will enable this, but there isn't much room for disagreement on this core issue.

There may yet be room for playing around in the trade-off space, but we can no longer rightfully talk about innovation in regard to those attempts. The form factor innovation space is now defined as solving the core trade-off problem.
+David Jacobs AG with direct connection to the eye nerve has no trade-off between portability and the desire for large displays. Has other disadvantages, though :-)

Maybe public terminals/displays, which allow to connect your mobile device or to you cloud account easily may be the next step.
Good point in taking it to that level. We often think of "technology" value by how easily it adapts to our "human" form factor. When in fact, the last time I checked the majority of infrastructure that makes the smartphone even a reality isn't very friendly to the "Human form".. when it does, then i guess there will be a lot of excited data center dudes out there jumping for joy.

None the less you are right.. Rather then leaving the responsibility of sound industrial design all on the client side of the equation it makes me think.. that we need to approach the other end of the problem. The "receiver". First of all, these types of technology are more likely to be seen by the public and have to exist in public places. Sure, just like 110 volt sockets.. we decor them as we please indoors.. but, its not like these points of power are going to be like your average laptop plug in at the airport.

For example look at the public electric car ports. For one they aren't the smallest thing out there.. and they need to be obvious, but at the same time not break the design of the surrounding areas. These are all new challenges to be met by industrial and everyday designers.
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