As Apple rolls out what looks like another incremental upgrade to its flagship iPhones and Samsung pushes its foldable – and expensive – Galaxy lineup, it might seem that these once-revolutionary tech giants are now content to rest on their laurels instead of innovating, trying to make the most of our society dependent on smartphones and social networks.
But a few digging by tech site SimpleGhar shows that within the ranks of Apple and Google, there are still engineers and designers tinkering with technology that sometimes borders on science fiction.
By sifting through patents on Google’s patent search tool, five potentially game-changing technologies that never saw the light of day were discovered and then turned into 3D models.
While we may never get our hands on them, they nonetheless show that innovation is alive and well in the tech industry – even as smartphone makers compete to see who has the best camera and social media companies are doing their best to keep us glued to our screens.
The big idea
To protect the notoriously fragile screens of iPhones, Apple engineers designed retractable screen protectors that extend above the screen to create a gap during a “drop event”, “functioning as a shock absorber and preventing the screen from connecting to a surface with which the electronic device comes into contact”. “, according to the patent.
However, knowing Apple’s dedication to simplicity and minimalism in its product design, it’s no surprise that iPhones never embraced this technology, with its many exposed moving parts and design. clumsy.
Also, Apple Care doesn’t sell, does it?
Facebook’s hovering camera
The big idea
In a move that seems straight out of Blade Runner, Facebook (now Meta) considered a webcam that can levitate and follow the face of its user during video calls, thanks to electromagnets.
The camera module enhances fixed desktop or laptop cameras by giving the caller greater freedom of movement, while eliminating shake that can result from taking video calls on smartphones or tablets.
While the idea is good in principle, it’s debatable whether today’s users would be comfortable with another privacy-invading gadget that can track your movements.
Meta’s recent pivot to the metaverse has also seen the company go all out on virtual reality, with the company preferring to assert a claim in your virtual world rather than the physical world, which makes sense as far as is concerned. primarily software, not hardware, .
Google’s virtual keyboard
The big idea
Why bother typing on your phone’s screen keyboard, when you can just make your hand the keyboard?
Probably envisioned as an extension of the now-failed Google Glass project, virtual hand keyboard would have allowed users to type numbers and letters directly on their hand, acting as a “virtual input device”.
Google engineers seem pretty obsessed with augmented reality, but it’s not yet clear whether consumers are ready to ditch their favorite devices in favor of floating screens.
Projecting a small keyboard also seems pretty limited these days, given that we can do everything from applying for a mortgage to playing complex video games on our phones.
Samsung’s smart contact lens
The big idea
Smart contact lenses that can project virtual screens, take photos and videos, and analyze visual information have been the staple of secret agents, futuristic spies, and just about anyone looking to do something discreetly.
Samsung’s smart contact lens comprises several micro-sized units that display, record and transmit information to the wearer and their smartphone (potentially), putting a small computer in your eyes.
While many have heralded the arrival of the metaverse and virtual reality as the next iteration of the internet, the reality is that the technology we need to access it just isn’t there yet. The sleek smartphone experience still trumps blurry graphics and clunky headsets. But if Samsung were able to develop a safe and functional contact lens that can help us access augmented reality, it could actually be a game-changer.
Of course, the lenses should be water and tear resistant, flexible so they won’t break in the eye, and won’t overheat due to the heavy computing power needed to project images into our eyes.
While that still seems far from reality, technological innovations such as Apple’s waterproof Apple Watch Ultra and LG’s rollable TV point to the existence of technology that just might make all of this a reality.
Ford’s Motorized Unicycle
The big idea
Did the traffic get you down? No worries, just upgrade to your stylish unicycle by swapping it on one of your rear tires.
Ford engineers must have loved playing superhero and designing a Batmobile-worthy vehicle that houses the unicycle frame in the trunk and comes with a custom suspension system.
Ford took the idea of ”last mile” transportation to the extreme, deciding to build two vehicles in one that would allow drivers, for example, to park their cars away from congested city centers and negotiate traffic in a nimble little bike.
While this is a smart idea in theory, in practice there are a lot of things potential buyers should consider.
For starters, what would be the weight of the unicycle frame? Should you replace the tire more often due to increased wear? And would you need to take out two insurance policies?
There’s no denying, however, that Batman and Iron Man would have been proud of the invention.
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