Mobile wands

The history of mobile phones looks like this:

The future of mobile phones is perhaps… not a mobile phone at all, but rather a contextually aware and active mobile magic wand. It’s not about skins anymore. Not even about features, open source, multi-touch or iPhoney. It’s about who is going to make the device interact with your environment as well as capturing it in context. It’s a wand, I tell you. You know what, it’s going to talk with the clouds rather than with native applications. It might or might not link with the global brain.

But what I know for sure, it’s going to combine cloud computing, augmented reality and the internet of things in a meaningful way.

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  • Janne

    Yes, of course it is. and

    The magic wand thing is in commercially available handsets now. It is still to create a big impact, but big companies (NFC Forum has 150+ members) wouldn’t be doing it if there wasn’t money in it.

  • Teemu Arina

    Janne, near field communication is not enough. We are talking about a wand here, after all. It captures the life-cycle and context of things around you. It taps into a mesh network of devices acting as routers to each other as you walk by.

    You will Google your lost keys. The devices around you will know where your keys are, by near field triangulating their location. You can manage your things through your wand. Simple payments and scanning RFID in close contact is not enough. We are talking about sensing, thinking, recording and shrinking things. One of these things you interact with might even be in your blood stream, perhaps in nano-scale.

    Suica works pretty well already in Japan.

  • Janne

    I think the technology is way more versatile than you give it credit for.

    But it does not matter, since it is here, now, and it will be ubiquitous. Why? Because there is money in it.

    Is there money in googling for your keys? Perhaps, if you’re totally hopeless with things.

    Frankly, I find most of the “smart objects” ubicomp visions groundless. Building the infrastructure always costs a lot of money – and it evens up the intelligence between the environment and the user. So, in effect the user will become more stupid, when his surroundings get smarter – assuming intelligence is relative.

    So, my bet is on technologies that make *you* feel smarter with respect to the environment. Invisible things. Things that give you more power. Like the cell phone, or the internet. Very, very smart devices, which are meant to feel very dumb, when you use them.

    And here’s the rub: most of the ubicomp use cases are designed to take power from you and put it in the environment. Which means that people don’t like to pay for it. Which in turn means that it’s very, very difficult for anyone to make it all come true.

    I remember discussing keygoogling five-six years ago. And while it’s a nice idea, I just don’t think it flies until someone thinks it over and finds something really interesting.

  • Teemu Arina

    There is money in anything that reduces your cognitive load and gives you room for something else to think. That’s what the mobile phone is doing, you don’t have to remember numbers. If you loose your phone, you are ruined.

    Internet search is the same thing. You can off-load cognitive tasks on the network. It’s becoming semi-automatic. I don’t have to remember certain things outside the context of using computers to locate it. I just Google it. I feel disabled to even complete simple intellectual tasks like creating a presentation without the help of the search engine.

    Now on the web we are moving from searching to sharing and augmenting our capabilities through how other people use these technologies. Licklider is back. Man is in the machine. Or is the machine entering the man. Who knows, but it’s symbiotic.

    The same with an internet of things, thinglinks and the rest. Actually, ubicomp is pretty bad naming. It’s hard to spell and it’s all about AI, wearable stuff and smart devices. What AI doesn’t give you is power. Rather, we are talking about men in control of their environment in new ways. It’s not enough to capture the context. We need to bend it too, like we are bending our own universes through technology.

  • Janne

    Ag! Your security code is horrible! I mistyped it and it destroyed my response! It is too long to get correct! Never commenting here again! Threshold of participation too much!

    Wrote blog post:

  • Alan Levine

    Not going to argue about wands but wanted to say thanks for the fabulous video and the link to the cloud learning talk- great stuff to share!

  • Bryan Alexander

    Excellent post, Mr. Arina.

    Question: what do you think of the storytelling possibilities for such magic wand computing?

  • Raimo van der Klein


    Reading your post here I know you will like my presentation called Modern Wands and Wizards. Have a look at Slideshare. ;-)

  • Raimo van der Klein

    Totally agree with the cognitive load part. B.Sterling rules!

  • typondis

    Um, I’m betting the disparity of cell users between British and US users is largely due to the majority of Britons being in a dense metro area.

  • mirc


    Thank you;)

  • Adriaan Labout

    Good stuff. I liked the Wizard too ! Slide 27 is spot on;

  • plastik cerrah

    i have seen the fashion magazine before but one made by bruce gilden. loved it. i did not know alec soth also made one. thinking about ordering a copy now…

  • typondis

    Um, I'm betting the disparity of cell users between British and US users is largely due to the majority of Britons being in a dense metro area.