Mobile Devices At Core Of Future Appliances

A recent paper by Albrecht Schmidt and Dominik Bial asserts that mobile devices like phones and MP3 players will form the core component of many future appliances, using their displays and computing power to enhance their functionality.

(Sewing machine with improbably large display [pdf])

"As mass-produced mobile devices continue to become cheaper, they could increasingly serve as a component in a product. For the sewing machine for example, we could imagine replacing the color display and custom computer with a programmable touch-screen MP3 player or phone. The casing design and custom software could hide the commodity device so it would be hard to see without dissembling the sewing machine. Using off the-shelf devices as the core computing component could significantly reduce the development effort of the appliance’s computer parts and hence could allow more people to create sophisticated appliances. The skill sets required are programming a standard platform and electromechanical design, but not hardware development. Combined with 3D printing, this approach could broaden the set of people who could produce and distribute complex appliances...

"Treating a device as an accessory is the most common approach because it follows the idea of the exchangeable motor. The device manufacturer creates the device-specific hardware and sells it as an accessory to a phone. Examples include an attachable blood pressure measuring device for the iPhone, a car entertainment system that is essentially a dock for the phone, and a credit card reader that can be attached to the iPhone. Such an approach is not entirely new; people tried it when the Gameboy was popular (for example, as an accessory for measuring blood sugar and a multimeter)."

Philip K. Dick loved the idea of ordinary household items that talked. For example, in his 1969 novel Ubik, an otherwise normal apartment has a talking door that demands to be paid:

The door refused to open. It said, "Five cents, please."

He searched his pockets. No more coins; nothing. "I'll pay you tomorrow," he told the door. Again it remained locked tight. "What I pay you," he informed it, "is in the nature of a gratuity; I don't have to pay you."

"I think otherwise," the door said.

(Read more about Dick's toll door)

From Phones and MP3 Players as the Core Component in Future Appliance [pdf] via pasta & vinegar.

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