Big changes coming to notebook design by 2015

Mobile computers in 2015 will significantly eclipse today's notebooks in terms of usability and capabilities

According to designer Valero Cometti, "the idea was to close the gap between man and machine." This notebook changes personality depending on how it's held. Opened all the way, it's a sketch pad. Fold it half open and rotate it 90 degrees, and it's an e-book. By emulating a musical keyboard on the lower half, when it's flat on a table, it can be a go-anywhere piano.

Siafu

Who needs a screen at all? Long Beach, Calif.-based independent designer Jonathan Lucas' eccentric Siafu concept can touch you, literally. That's because Siafu is for the blind and has no screen.

168488-siafu2_original

"The idea was to open a new realm of digital interface for the visually impaired by enhancing and even surpassing existing technologies that currently cater to this group," said Lucas.

Because the blind can't see what's on the screen, Siafu converts images into corresponding 3-D shapes that are created with Magneclay, an oil-based synthetic material that instantly forms shapes in response to electrical fields.

In such hands-on computing, you interact with Siafu with your fingers to feel the bumps and protrusions that pop up. The Magneclay surface could be used for reading a Braille newspaper, feeling the shape of someone's face or going over a tactile representation of a blueprint.

When could it be available? "I don't know," answered Lucas. "How about 2015?"

Cario

Imagine a system that is at home in a car, in an Internet café or on a hotel desk, and you have the job description of Anna Lopez' Cario.

"The concept offers several ways of working on the move or at a desk," explained U.K.-based independent designer Lopez.

168488-cario1_original

Equal parts form, function and fashion, this concept replaces the traditional lid hinge with a shiny bar that -- as the name implies -- is a carrying handle. It also allows the lid to fold up for travel and can be converted into a an easel or sit on a car's steering wheel.

Not surprisingly, then, Cario comes into its own on the road. So the driver doesn't get cross-eyed or crook-necked by looking down at the screen when it's locked into the steering wheel, Cario has a microprojector that projects its images onto the vehicle's windshield. This heads-up display can show maps, videoconferences and find the closest gas station.

A safety hazard in the making? "The notebook is connected to the [car's] dashboard so that Cario can only be operated if the vehicle is stationary," said Lopez.

Changing Materials

Some changes and new functionality in the laptops we'll use in 2015 will come about because of significant advances in the materials used to create the devices. Magneclay is just one example.

Another example is a change in the plastics used in the notebook case. In fact, by 2015, dropping a notebook might not be the catastrophe it can be today.

That's because a group at UCLA's Exotic Materials Institute led by Fred Wudl has come up with an epoxy that's strong, durable and can repair itself. Called Automend, small cracks can be sealed by just heating the surface with a hair dryer, making it a godsend for the clumsy among us.

Another example relates to peripherals used on the road. For instance, future mobile systems could easily include projectors, which will be reduced to about the size of a pack of cigarettes by 2015.

Because such projectors use a laser, "you can project images on a wall within a distance of several meters without having to adjust a lens," said Schmidberger. "It can even be bumpy or bent."

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Brian Nadel

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