The Next Big Thing is Big AND Interactive

The iPhone success story seems to be hitting the same commodification bump that has affected so many before (Motorola, Palm, RIM, Nokia). However, don’t let the dark clouds and abundance of naysayers darken your mood.  The silver tint lining those dark clouds indicates a sun that will soon shed light on a beautiful and improved set of experiences from our devices.  Consumers are OK to pay more for iPhones and even OK being locked into a “Glass Box”… as long as their trusted companion is delivering good technology experiences that deliver a “Wow”, a smile, and something really beautiful. In fact, we are still looking to surround ourselves with a trusted ecosystem that delivers the most creative experiences, be it… games, tunes or other content. It turns out people like experiences that are interactive and/or collaborative. They like feedback that is instantaneous and intuitive.  Most important is that they get this experience, when and where it’s wanted, in the car, at the office, at school, at home, in the kitchen or in the family room. A vision for the next big thing is coming, and it’s a BIG experience.

Back in 2013, one might remember that more than 20 startups were funded to pursue large screen touch systems for Gaming Tables, Interactive Desktops, Digital Whiteboards in every office, Gaming Coffee Tables in every family room, and Kitchen Tables that were to be the creativity center of the home. Restaurants and bars were going to install interactive video displays throughout and offer amazing experiences by just placing a phone on a table and launching multi-player games and sharing digital content with friends. Everyone expected the group games would be amazing and the social aspects of sitting around a table eating, playing, sharing, collaborating, and laughing would be contagious. This was the genesis of Corning’s “Day of Made of Glass” and a vision that built real excitement in the industry. Picking a phone was like picking a trusted companion, consumers were betting on who would fulfill the richness of these experiences.  They were OK inside the “Glass Box” because they were headed to a wonderful place.

Now, 6 years later, Microsoft has invested heavily in the Hub technology enticing us with visions of cool interactions in preparation for what we expect will be a great unveiling of Hub2.  Apple has also taught the world a fundamental lesson… “Great interactions make great products”.  It turns out however, that good touch on any device larger than an iPad is extremely difficult. Apple and companies such as Microsoft, Google, and Cisco have made massive investments over the years working to solve issues such as signal attenuation over long lines, touch lag, noise immunity, palm rejection, ability to work through spilled drinks, aluminum cans, food on a dirty table, and not to mention the durability issues of game tables. Based on demonstrations shown at CES this year, each of these issues is mostly solved and the vision will soon be a reality.

The marketing departments of multi-billion-dollar companies can’t afford to sell a vision that causes customers to delay purchases, so while they continue to sell new cameras for cell phones, rest assured the vision for the next big thing is on the way and these large screens will captivate us with compelling interactions.

People enjoy sharing, collaborating, and even competing in group interactions around large screens.  Humans are social beings. Small screens designed for individual use, as we’ve discovered, deliver a broken form of socialization.  Interactive table tops will gather us back together and have us making eye contact again. Families and friends will engage in new experiences, smiling and laughing together in lively games that know who is touching and what is intended. Desktops are being designed with tools that spur creative innovation and design.  Home entertainment will take on new meaning with touch experiences that captivate with deep engagement on the surface of a kitchen table.

Stores, restaurants, bars, and coffee shops will become popular destinations offering the best of interactive entertainment. Tabletop software will flow your Wall Street Journal around your drink supplementing valuable screen space. Conference rooms and conference tables will be truly collaborative making them more productive work spaces. Best of all, the impact to education will finally enable interactive learning tools that correct and steer students with intuitive feedback. In addition to pen support schools will choose from a host of game-based edutainment activities as part of a Creative Leaning System. The software use cases from a host of providers are mostly ready, and have been waiting for the interactive technologies to enable the experiences they can imagine.

Excitement for the future will not be about higher contrast TVs… or a fifth way to access Netflix. The future is about engagement. Interactivity stimulates creativity and deeper engagement.  A surge of colorful and compelling interactions will reach far beyond where “phone apps” and keyboards can go.

If we have learned anything, it’s that the best products have the best interactivity. The vision is becoming reality delivering experiences that are fulfilling and products that are as engaging as originally promised.  The screens will add color to our world but this time the vision is something we can touch.

Rick Seger is CEO of SigmaSense® LLC, Austin, Texas

Moving humanity from viewer to doers…

SigmaSense® LLC provides the first low voltage and fully-scalable sensing technology to solve the noise immunity and tuning challenges of capacitive touch sensors. Our SigmaVision® Controller utilizes a breakthrough in Capacitive Imaging to simultaneously transmit and receive for self-capacitance, mutual capacitance, and pen from a single pin. The unique approach to Capacitive Imaging has the potential to affect positive disruption across many industries where intuitive machine interfaces will decide the winners. SigmaSense® technology enables access to game-changing information about interactions with mobile devices, large format interactive displays, and limitless custom sensing applications. Join us in pioneering the next evolutionary progression of perceptive machines.