The Future of Interactive Devices: All mobile or is there room for enchantment?

Uncategorized Posted Oct 12, 2012 by chenpr

Heading into the MITEF Innovation Series Battle Tuesday evening between a mobile future and enchanted objects I was fully prepared to side with the mobile supporters over smart, or in this case enchanted, everyday objects. Like so many, my iPhone is basically a fifth appendage and I have to say it’s been a while since I’ve been in the Sharper Image or Brookstone so my bias was fairly obvious. However, by the time I left I was not only swaying from my position, I was left with feeling that I needed a Sharper Image catalog and I needed it yesterday.

Before I continue my catharsis about my internal struggle between my loyal smartphone and genius objects, let me take a step back and explain what this Innovation Series Battle was all about. In one corner was the idea that the future is mobile – smartphones and tablets dominating our daily interactions – and in the next corner was the idea that the future is filled with enchanted objects – our world will evolve into smart objects meeting all of our needs.

Michael Davies, the Founder and Chairman of Endeavour Partners argued that smartphones will dominate the way we interact with the world around us and that everything else is merely an accessory. Basically the Droid Razr M commercial had it right and the palm of our hand might as well be our smartphone screen.

Smartphones are already heavily intertwined with our daily activities and interactions. They dominate in personalization, power and broadband connectivity and this dominance will only continue to grow with industry advancements, especially as computing storage cost become cheaper.

But what if we can supplement our smartphones with the personalization and advanced capabilities of enchanted objects? David Rose of MIT Media Lab’s Tangible Media GroupX argued that it’s not the smartphone device; it’s the connectivity that is most important. People don’t care where the connectivity comes from they just want tasks and interactions to be made fast and easy. He quoted Mike Kuniavsky saying, “Objects are avatars for services.”

This immediately caught my attention and this is where I began to sway into the land of enchantment. Prior to this I was content with everything being in the palm of my hand, but I now think, why can’t I have both? I want to have sneakers with analytic sensors in the soles while I use my NIKE+ app. I want high tech blinds that open and close automatically with the time of day, but I also want to be able to manually control them with my smartphone. So this begs the question, is the future actually a world where smartphones and enchanted objects live in harmonious co-dependency?

Jennifer Lum, Co-Founder of Adelphic Mobile made the point that while enchanted objects are innovative and special, they can’t compete with the fact that our smartphones go wherever we go. In my eyes, this only further supports the notion that there is place for both to be a strong presence in our lives. If I have a coffee table with a digital interface on which I can access my Facebook, I’m going to put aside my phone and use the coffee table. However, under no circumstance would I give up the capability to access my Facebook from my mobile while I’m sitting in a doctor’s waiting room or riding on the subway.

I surprised myself when I did not stay steadfast on the side of smartphones being the sole leader with interactive tech devices, but it’s my belief that in the future we will find ourselves feeling a need or desire to populate our lives with both apps and objects. What do you think? Will you continue to rely on your smartphone for connectivity? Or will you venture into the land of enchantment and invite genius objects into your life?