I'm sure you'll tell me which sci-fi books have the technology I'm about to describe. And you'll delight in telling me Google or someone else is already working on it. So don't think of this as an "idea." It's just something I want.

I want my phone's apps to auto-adjust to my environment. And over time, I want everything in my environment to be Internet-connected or at least remote-controlled.

When I walk into a room, I want the home screen of my phone to automatically bring up controls and operating manuals for the technology that is nearby. I want to be able to operate everything in my environment, including the television and DVR, the lights, security, heat, AC, fans, curtain shades, and even microwave oven. When I walk into a store, I want my apps to know what sort of payment system is used so I can pay with my smartphone.

If you enter a room and the television remote doesn't pop up automatically on your phone, you simply snap a photo of the TV and your phone goes to the cloud and finds a match. Thereafter, anyone whose phone registers the same GPS coordinates will have automatic access to the television's remote control simply by walking into the room.

Let's call this technology "push apps" because my guess is that someone already does call it that. You walk into a room and the right apps push to your phone.

In order for this system to work, I think these push apps need to always become your home screen. We humans are generally more interested in our immediate surroundings than in matters far away. I don't want to hunt around for the right app every time I walk into a new room.

This vision works best with what I'll call a ring-wand. It's a ring on your finger, connected to the phone in your pocket by Bluetooth. The ring would be smart enough to judge its own movement, and perhaps have a microphone or even a tiny speaker. That way you could wave your hand like a magician and operate technology in the room.

I would think a ring could detect the following:

-          Finger snap

-          Direction and GPS (what it is pointing at)

-          Fist versus open hand

-          Waving motions (direction, speed)

-          Voice commands (your phone is the brain)

I could imagine, for example, making a fist and pointing the top of the ring toward a TV screen to control a cursor. But if you make an open palm motion of the "halt" variety, the appliance powers off. And so on.

Keep in mind that the pairing of your ring and your phone is a great system for identification because a thief is unlikely to have both. You'd never need to enter another password. And you'd never forget your phone because your ring would vibrate as soon as you got out of range.

In the long run, when all electronics are connected to the Internet, this sort of world will be easier to accomplish, assuming all of the vendors don't fight for their own standards and ruin the whole thing. In the short run, humans could "tag" rooms so all future visitors know what technology is inside them. (You'd need to untag technology as it is removed.)

My prediction is that smart watches will never be a big thing. The future is rings paired with phones.

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+11 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 10, 2014
These sort of discussions really highlight how people have very different expectations with their technology.

Scott always seems to want technology dancing ahead of him anticipating his every need, endlessly demanding his attention.

I want mine to mostly stay in its cage, and I'll pick out what I want/need when it's necessary.

The world Scott describes often sounds coldly distracting from warm human experience?

I wonder which Meyers-Briggs personality type is Scott which prefers these things? As an ENFP, I'd guess Scott is a ISTJ.

Quite agreed on the !$%*!$%*!$ thing, seems a joke. Just my 2 pence.
Feb 10, 2014
Well, I hope that some approximation of this technology becomes available for you to enjoy.

However, it probably won't, because, for instance, I will absolutely never use it and too many other people won't, which will inhibit the mass market which is necessary for any manufacturer to pursue these types of standards.

Reminds me of a cousin who wanted to write an app for smartphones which would dynamically create an avatar for social networking that was dressed the same way you are. He just needed to convince all clothing manufacturers to embed RFID tags in all pieces of clothing and maintain an online database with color-and-style details... He couldn't understand why that wasn't a realistic expectation.
Feb 10, 2014
The thing is, none of this is impossible with current technology -- heck, none of it was impossible with the technology of 10 years ago. But I don't think we'll see it happen anytime soon.

Technology only succeeds when it makes people's lives less complicated. That takes a couple of forms: either by reducing the number of decisions/actions required, or else reducing "error" cases where the user has to take special action. Car locks, for example, will inevitably evolve from actual locks to being something more like a building door that is controlled by a card reader; the concept of a car being "locked" or "unlocked" will go away in favor of one that is ALWAYS locked, except when someone holding a fob is near or inside the car. However, cars will never have an "auto-start" feature, because there are any number of situations where someone wants to be in a car but not have it running, and if the car auto-started, the driver would have to take corrective action.

The scenarios you outline sound great to a technologist, but it won't happen on any large scale, because of the number of error conditions possible. What the "ideal" conditions are for my environment are very much situation-dependent, and absent the ability to accurately read my moods, any technology is going to get it wrong, a lot. When it worked, it would be cool, but when it didn't, it would be really, really annoying, and that's worse.

I think you are looking to solve a problem that really just isn't a problem. You want to be able to control your microwave from your phone. Why, exactly? You still have to open the door, put things in, and retrieve them afterward. At what point is having a phone-based interface for the microwave an advantage? It is much more likely to introduce hassles than to solve them. Shoot, I left my phone in the bedroom, now I have to walk all the way across the house in order to make some popcorn. It just doesn't make sense.
Feb 10, 2014
Feb 10, 2014
Why is wrist-watch w*r*I*s*t*w*a*t*c*h censored?
Feb 10, 2014
You're right, people are already working on it. But your vision doesn't go far enough. In order for it to work properly, the technology has to be more predictive. Your home environmental controls will study who is in what room, and what their temperature preference is, even varying with time of day. Not only that, it will predict when you will arrive home, so that the perfect conditions can be in place the minute you walk in the door, and supper on the table, or snacks for the kids, etc.

I don't think a blue-tooth enabled ring is practical, I think the only thing you could really put in a comfortable and stylish ring would be a low-powered LED - capable of transmitting a signal to be tracked by sensors in your environment, but not much else.

A !$%*!$%*!$ would be more flexible and secure. Biometric engineers have already come up with devices sensitive to a person's individual EKG signature, meaning it could be made to work for no-one but you. The !$%*!$%*!$ would be better, since it could work based on the movement of muscles in your wrist, meaning almost any hand gesture could have a task assigned. You could type on a bare table and the !$%*!$%*!$ would interpret it as keystrokes.
Feb 10, 2014
Why do you think a ring is preferable to a watch?
Feb 10, 2014
"........your ring would vibrate as soon as you got out of range"

Now that's a completely different sort of gadget.
Feb 10, 2014
Yes, Im nitpicking here, but thats what were for, right? A few problems I see with your vision:

-Why would you want to remote control the microwave? In order to use it you're going to have to put something in it and then take it out anyway.
-What happens when two folks with different settings are in the same room?
-At one time didnt you say you wanted a device that remote controlled the TV and did nothing else because otherwise the 'remote' would wander all over the house? Wouldnt you have the same prob with some of these other remote ideas?
-I dont know that Id want to control my devices with hand gestures instead of on some kind of touch screen. Cant help thinking hand gestures would be more error prone.
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Feb 10, 2014
Dear Mr Adams,

I represent Sux & Brothers, an Intellectual Property company.

We own a patent for finger-driven managment of devices, covering among other things rings, cell phones and buttons (patent no 5995669 published on Dec 23, 1946).

Your article is obviously infringing on this and possibly other patents that we own.

We therefore request that:
a.You remove this article, the blog, www.google.com, www.facebook.com and any other Internet presence related to this article and/or Dilbert.
b.Send us, by March 1st 2014, one arm and three legs belonging to the said Scott Adams.
Feb 10, 2014
[My prediction is that smart watches will never be a big thing. The future is rings paired with phones.]

Bad news for me. I dislike wearing watches AND rings.
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