A new kind of device
In this document, I present my concept for a new kind of device that can perform all the functions of today's portable devices, and more. It does not have the functionality of a laptop computer, however, nor the scope of some of today's Palm Pilot derivatives. However, I hope that its use may contribute to doing away with the need for some of the more complex functionality that such devices supply.
The device is essentially a mobile phone, personal digital assistant (PDA, e.g. Palm Pilot), a camera and audio player. I am presenting here only a description of the functionality of the device and what you may think of as its programming libraries. I hope to later publish my suggestions for a graphical user interface (GUI) that will allow users efficient handling of the functions.
For the time being, let's call it the Mugar (multimedia gadgetry).
The Mugar can record photos, audio and video, i.e. it includes a camera and microphone. It can later process video to capture stills and audio from it. It is desirable to include compression features for audio and video formats. Stills can be assembled into slideshows. Video and slideshows can have audio tracks added in two ways, essentially overwriting, or merging with, any previous audio track.
It should be possible to upload audio onto the Mugar from a variety of sources and formats, e.g. mp3, ogg, Audio CD, minidisc. Audio output is by two headphone sockets to enable users to share the enjoyment of any music.
The Mugar can also play conventional radio, and can play internet radio streams, provided a sufficient bandwidth is implemented. It can also record from either.
Audio can be exported to serve as the voice mail introductory message (greeting). This is not constrained to recorded audio.
The Mugar can act as today's mobile phones. It could also support a video phone format. It should then be possible to introduce not only audio data, but video data stored on the device, into the live conversation. Ditto for slideshows.
The Mugar will be able to handle several phone accounts (i.e. numbers) on one device. For instance, you could have one phone account for business and one for private. During office hours, you can set your private account to voicemail, and after office hours, set your business account to voicemail. Perfect peace of mind!
It is desirable that a cheaper rate if charged for calls from the Mugar while in a particular local area. Hence, mobile telephony could entirely replace landlines, or indeed free them up for other kinds of traffic.
The Mugar will also support whatever format supercedes SMS and email, neither of which is a good protocol for higher bandwidth mobile devices. Any audio, video or slideshow data can be used as attachments (or perhaps inserts?) in the message.
The Mugar will come with earbuds whose cord rolls up inside the device like a hoover cable. A microphone with clip will be supplied in the same way.
The Mugar includes Global Positioning technology. It will be capable of displaying local street and road maps and give the latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates of its location. The coordinates can be saved in local files or pasted into email messages. Similarly, maps can be saved in a graphics format.
A weather forecast feature is capable of giving coordinates based weather as well as weather of a city chosen by the user. A list of coordinates and cities can be saved for future weather lookups.
It is hoped that car manufacturers and the like will integrate the Mugar with their electronics. It is desirable when navigating a car to have a larger screen than the portable Mugar will have.
The Mugar has an address book, most importantly to store phone and email addresses (or whatever better comes along). Addresses can be categorised and accessed more quickly through categories. Subcategories may be desirable. Phone and email numbers provide direct links to those technologies.
The address book also includes birthday information, which is automatically put in the calendar. The calendar then contains a link back to the addressbook for quick access to the birthday child's address to convey the good wishes. Such address book links can also be created for all other appointments, and they can be used in to do list items and memos.
Address book and calendar data can be easily pasted into email/SMS.
The camera of the Mugar can take macro shots at reading distance or less from a book or document, and automatically process this in an OCR application. If pages are a larger format, such as A4, two shots can be taken of a page which are then merged prior to OCR processing. No more overnight loans - just photograph and keep forever!
The Mugar can access WAP sites. The display may be developed to enable viewing of fully-fledged websites, but really, an accessory such as data goggles may be necessary. Perhaps cafés will want to charge for the use of flat panels to plug your Mugar into - cheaper than internet café! The mobile life.
Like radio frequencies, stream URLs, address book and calendar excerpts, URLs can be easily pasted into messages.
The device is kept up to time by radio clock.
It is currently unclear what sort of display the Mugar will have. It may turn out to be a Palm Pilot-like stylo touchscreen, or it may indeed be a foldable e-paper type screen with the advantages of larger size and greater energy efficiency, but lack of illumination for dark conditions, although this could be implemented eventually.
The Mugar can read out aloud any document of text character, including emails and text messages. This is the same functionality as currently found in Adobe Reader.
As with all handheld devices, it will be desirable to transfer data
predominantly from a less mobile device to the Mugar, but occasionally
from the Mugar to, say, the PC, too. There is no reason why the Mugar
shouldn't support various modes of such data transfer. One possibility
is "remote" transfer via the internet, perhaps on the FTP protocol.
Then there are the standards: USB and infrared. USB in particular is
already in widespread use, and provides suitable data transfer rates. I
currently believe wireless LAN use of the Mugar to constitute an excess
burden, unless the same technology (let's call this an antenna) could
be used for the mobile phone and WLAN deployment.
The Mugar interface in plain text and "multi-page HTML menu" formats.
To get the most realistic idea of the interface, you may want to try
the HTML version in a text browser such as Links or Lynx. Enjoy playing
with it! You may be interested in the perl script that fabricates the HTML.
Last updated 8 August 2005.