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Mozilla Labs Presents Seabird Concept Phone 61

Posted by Soulskill
from the does-it-print-money dept.
Several readers tipped news of a presentation on the Mozilla Labs blog about what they call Seabird, "a community-driven mobile phone concept." It's an imagining of what future phone tech could look like, using dual pico projectors and a Bluetooth/IR dongle to more easily interact with apps and web interfaces. "With mobile phone companies such as Samsung, LG and Motorola moving towards display applications for projectors, the technology remains open for expanding user interaction and input at the same time. The Seabird, on just a flat surface, enables netbook-quality interaction by working with the projector’s angular distortion to deliver interface, rather than content. With the benefit of a dock, each projector works independently and delivers laptop levels of efficiency."
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Mozilla Labs Presents Seabird Concept Phone

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  • Projector bulbs cost $250+, I would hate to see the bill on these cel phones.
  • by Sonny Yatsen (603655) * on Friday September 24, 2010 @11:10AM (#33687610) Journal

    You see dozens of concept phones and they're always cool or super-capable in some way. But it's easy to create a cool concept when you don't have to consider real world limitations like battery life, cost, size limitations, etc. This phone concept is no different. It is packed with every phone fantasy the Mozilla community had. Of course it's going to be cool. But it's also telling that the Mozilla Labs people also have no intent for actually making one.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by nschubach (922175)

      FTA:

      Does Mozilla have plans to produce a mobile phone?

      No. Mozilla produces Firefox for Mobile, the popular Firefox browser for mobile phone systems such as Nokia Maemo and Android. You can find out more about Mozilla Firefox for Mobile here.

    • by JustinOpinion (1246824) on Friday September 24, 2010 @11:45AM (#33688088)
      Yes, it's only a concept phone, and Mozilla has no plans to make it. Yes, it's easy to make technology super-awesome when you only have to deal in concepts, and not engineering.

      But are you implying that this makes concept designs useless? Personally, I love them. The point is to show all the many-splendid things that could be possible if more advanced technology were available. Which makes sense to do, since technology continually advances. A concept design does many things: it gets people excited about possibilities, it gives product designers/engineers ideas about what to try next. Perhaps most importantly, it lets us all ruminate about, and discuss, design choices long before major effort has been expended. This lets us pick out great ideas and shoot down bad ones.

      For instance, I'm sure many Slashdotters had moments of "that will never work because of X" or "that would suck because of Y" while watching the video. These criticisms can be helpful, as a concept design is refined to bring it closer to what a real-world device would have to do. And conversely many of us I'm sure had ideas like "That's awesome! If it could that, I bet I could hack it to do Z!" Many things we now use, and take for granted (touchscreen mobile phones among them) were ridiculous concept-designs at one time.

      All I'm saying is that rather than just being "this is not and never will be a real device... lame" we should be discussing what is right or wrong about this particular design. We should be dreaming about future technology... because we are part of the process of making that technology come to be!
    • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Friday September 24, 2010 @11:49AM (#33688142)

      Well, it's like Google rolling out Gigabit broadband. They know that it's not going to work right now, the technology isn't there yet to do it in a way that is profitable. But they are very curious about how people will respond to such an offer, how they use a net connection with such high download speeds, and what kinds of web services they can plan to bring to bear when the technology does make it cost effective.

      Similarly, this is the direction that the Mozilla team thinks that mobile phone technology is going (I'll leave the argument about whether they are right and wrong for another post). So, if the phone of the future has multiple projectors, head tracking, in air gestures, multitouch, voice activation, keyboard and mouse integration, etc... what kinds of products and services make sense on such a device? How do those new technologies change the way people use their phones, and how can software writers capitalize on them?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by ion.simon.c (1183967)

        Well, it's like Google rolling out Gigabit broadband. They know that it's not going to work right now, the technology isn't there yet to do it in a way that is profitable.

        This is in Tennessee:
        http://chattanoogagig.com/ [chattanoogagig.com]

        1gbps symmetric service for 350USD/month.
        Split that with ten neighbors, and you almost beat the download speed (and absolutely crush the upload speed) of Comcast's best offering for far less than half their price.

    • by EkriirkE (1075937)

      I tried to see what the phone looked like, but there was too much sunburst and lens flare to see the renders :(

  • by not already in use (972294) on Friday September 24, 2010 @11:12AM (#33687648)
    It's always funny when you see future technologies that are doomed for failure. The projected keyboard has to be one of the most obviously useless features continually perpetuated as something that we will eventually have. I can only imagine how difficult and frustrating it would be to try and use one.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Sonny Yatsen (603655) *

      I think Thinkgeek sold a laser projected keyboard at one point (or maybe they still do). I think the common complaint is that there is zero tactile response (since you're essentially tapping on a bit of tabletop) and the key press detection isn't very good.

      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Not to mention that your fingers would constantly be blocking the projection, making it very difficult for anyone that needs to look at the keyboard.

        • by EdZ (755139)
          With the corollary that, because there is no tactile response at all to allow you to position your fingers over keys, you're going to be looking at it. A lot.
        • by Agent0013 (828350)
          Right, because my fingers don't block my view of a physical keyboard! Sure it lack the tactile feel of the buttons pressing, but so does the iPhone virtual keyboard. The iPhone virtual keyboard is is also obscured by the light blocking fingers. This is similar to that, but larger.
      • This is something that is common to touchscreen phones - no tactile response- and there is a lot of typing going on with those devices these days.

        The primary limitation as I see it is the issue of poor keypress detection. iOS I know attempts to mitigate this by auto-correcting your spelling, but the spelling correction isn't perfect either.

        The true solution is to increase the size of the area you're working in. If the projected keyboard is big enough and the keypress detection works, great. But then you run
        • by Joe Tie. (567096)
          The keypress detection issue was really driven home for me when I bought one of those cheapo $90 Chinese android tablets. It's a surprisingly usable device. But the sensitivity for keypresses is pretty bad. It's all but impossible to type with it using my hands as a result. I have to use a stylus or my fingernail.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Pojut (1027544)

      You mean like this [thinkgeek.com] crazy contraption?

      • Still kinda useless for a mobile phone - I have one of those, its really only useful when your sitting at a desk with a flat surface.

        • Yeah, it's just if you're at a desk (or a tray table) you don't have to have lugged a keyboard with you - I used one with my Treo 650 for a little while - it was a bigger slow keyboard to Treo's small slow keyboard. It looks like ThinkGeek isn't carrying them anymore; if somebody really needs one drop me a line, I'll part with mine for the first hundred bucks.

  • by noidentity (188756) on Friday September 24, 2010 @11:15AM (#33687696)

    The Seabird, on just a flat surface, enables netbook-quality interaction by working with the projector's angular distortion to deliver interface, rather than content.

    <slowly steps back and avoids eye contact>

  • by KarlIsNotMyName (1529477) on Friday September 24, 2010 @11:23AM (#33687808)

    So with these things becoming more like tiny computers than cell phones, what will it take for us to be able to buy just the hardware and install the rest ourselves?

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Yeah, I was hoping this would be something like "Mozilla has an idea for an open phone platform based on a flexible UMPC". Even Android is locked down by the carriers or whoever.

      But no, it's, "Mozilla has a crazy-ass idea for projector phones".

      I don't want new technology in phones, I just want the existing stuff to become open so *I* can use it instead of having the manufacturer use it on my behalf.

      • Yeah, I was hoping this would be something like "Mozilla has an idea for an open phone platform based on a flexible UMPC". Even Android is locked down by the carriers or whoever.

        But no, it's, "Mozilla has a crazy-ass idea for projector phones".

        I don't want new technology in phones, I just want the existing stuff to become open so *I* can use it instead of having the manufacturer use it on my behalf.

        Android isn't locked down by mobile carriers. At least, the Android installation on my OpenMoko isn't. Neither is the Debian+Qtopia system I've got on the microSD. Or were you talking about some other open phone platform?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mark72005 (1233572)
      I'm looking forward to the day these devices can plug into my television, home theatre, and use my wireless keyboard by bluetooth - replacing a computer, gaming console, cable box, etc.
      • by M3lf.cz (983459)
        Well, the Nokia N900 has TV out a supports Bluetooth HID devices (keyboards, some game controllers, etc.).
        • by Lennie (16154)

          I have such a device, but the TV-out doesn't cut it. It is an s-video connector and it doesn't have a lot of resolution.

          I think I've seen wireless connections for projectors.

          I want one for my TV, maybe that would work.

    • by BitZtream (692029)

      That'll happen right after you stop carriers from having control over what uses their network ...

      In the US, thats going to require an act of congress cause the carriers aren't going to give up control on their own and will fight it and make it work as poorly as possible.

      Have you seen the CableCard mess?

    • So with these things becoming more like tiny computers than cell phones

      It's already there. A month ago my wife and I took our RV on a long weekend trip, and consciously left the laptop* behind - taking only our iPhones. Facebook, LiveJournal, Flickr, Google Maps, an interface to Geocaching.com, weather... Pretty much everything we'd need or want while traveling was available 24/7 in the palm of our hands. The only capability I missed was the ability to download and review photographs from my camera. She

  • by F34nor (321515) on Friday September 24, 2010 @11:25AM (#33687852)

    A phone that could route calls through it peers seems far more community driven than some new interface. I want to be able to call someone 10 feet away without a tower, I want tol be able tol reach a tower by routing through my neighbor or his femtocell, I want an idle cell that can see a network to be a tower. Oh yeah and I want people to know that if you buy your own hardware at&t can't disable the good shit.

    • They mean community driven as in the Mozilla community contributed ideas for the phone.

    • by zrbyte (1666979)
      "I want to be able to call someone 10 feet away without a tower"

      Actually some there are projects which aim to do just that, like Serval. [servalproject.org]

    • The Blackbean Wind [wikipedia.org] is the you're looking for. And there's no chance of AT&T disabling the good shit. I wouldn't put it past Verizon, though.

    • Depending on your situation, some of the 802.11g phones are pretty good and avoid all the hassle of carrier restrictions. They work at work and at home, where else do you ever go? My campus is working with the city right now to roll out WAPs on telephone poles in the vicinity, extending our wifi fabric out into the nearby streets. With WiMax coming out, this is looking like a practical alternative to cell providers in the near future.

      Examples: Cisco WIP310 [cisco.com], Linksys by Cisco WIP330 [amazon.com], D-Link DPH-541 [dlink.com], Alfa [amazon.com]
    • by BitZtream (692029)

      I want to be able to call someone 10 feet away without a tower

      You can, its called talking, people do it every day. You don't even need a phone.

      • by F34nor (321515)

        That's funny because I often call people who are operating in the cab of a piece of heavy equipment to tell them what to do. Don't be an apple fan boy or try to be a smart ass and come off a dumb ass by assuming that because you don't have a use for something no one else will!

    • by schnell (163007)

      I want to be able to call someone 10 feet away without a tower

      You want one of these [wikipedia.org] then, not a cellphone.

      I want to be able to reach a tower by routing through my neighbor

      Making cell phones that are also cell repeaters is very simple as long as you don't mind huge phones that output enough power to toast your bagel while you're waiting.

      or his femtocell

      If your neighbor sets you up on his femtocell, you can do that already. There's a reason femtocells aren't open by default to any user...

      Oh yeah and I want people to know that if you buy your own hardware at&t can't disable the good shit.

      As long as you aren't expecting cellular carriers to subsidize the cost of your equipment for you, there's no reason they would disable anything on a handset.

      Seriou

      • by F34nor (321515)

        "You want one of these then, not a cellphone."
        I don't want to needlessly carry multiple devices. I might want to talk about confidential things. I might want to use my Jawbone that is already in my ear. I don't think "why would you want to do it that way" is a interesting question relating to the abilities devices when they are only limited by software.

        "Making cell phones that are also cell repeaters is very simple as long as you don't mind huge phones that output enough power to toast your bagel wh

  • This reminds me of that horrible concept divice someone once tried to convence us we'd all be using by 2020. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=40tS8A-SJ6c [youtube.com]
  • seamonkey... seabird... I can't wait til they come up with a see-through product :)

  • I am glad youtube gives options to videoposters to submit alternative formats for 3D video: I am tired of colored 3D domination that requires glasses (side-by-side stereo does not require glasses, though not everybody can seem them without glasses).

    3D effect in that particular video sucks though.

  • by adavies42 (746183) on Friday September 24, 2010 @11:58AM (#33688244)

    Albatross! Albatross!
    What flavor is it?
    It hasn't got a flavor!
    Everything's got a flavor!
    It's bleeding seabird flavor!
    Right, I'll take two.
    Albatross! Albatross! Stormy petrel on a stick!

  • by judgecorp (778838) on Friday September 24, 2010 @12:07PM (#33688382) Homepage
    I don't want to quibble, and I know it does everything else you could want, but surely mini-USB is yesterday, and we should get with the excitement in data cable connections... :-) http://www.eweekeurope.co.uk/news/mozilla-shows-seabird-concept-phone-10036 [eweekeurope.co.uk]
  • by thewils (463314) on Friday September 24, 2010 @12:18PM (#33688510) Journal

    That nowhere in the concept video do we see someone actually talking on the thing.

  • In fact the idea of putting pico-projectors into a cell phone has been around for a few years. Pair them with a laser keyboard and you have a tiny computer than seems a lot bigger.

    I hope nobody either got any patents or actual money out of this, because it's frickin' obvious given the technology.

  • by sv_libertarian (1317837) on Friday September 24, 2010 @12:37PM (#33688710) Journal
    That we are starting to move away from standalone devices for a single task. I read nearly all my email on my phone. By the time my laptop is booted up, I'm already partway through the night's email. The tiny keyboard is the limitation for me right now, I use my computer for anything requiring a reply of more than a few sentences. Meanwhile, my computer makes phone calls, my amateur radio sends data, my cell phone browses the web, I make a phone call with my handheld 2 meter radio, and on and on and on.

    Personally, I'm thrilled to have a tiny computer in my pocket. And if I could somehow dock it, run it off of AC power, and connect a keyboard, mouse and larger display to it (and possibly external data storage) I wager a modern Android phone would handle nearly all of my communication. A good cellphone with a decent dock could be a very useful tool. The next ten years of mobile phone evolution excites me to no great end.

  • The form development took its cues from various aerodynamic, avian and decidedly feminine forms. Its erect posture intends a sense of poise while its supine conformity to the hand reconciles that with the user's desire for digital control. The curvature of the back also serves a functional role in elevating the projector lens elements when lying flat.

    Uh.

    I gotta go take a cold shower now. BRB.

  • I wish someone would get the following right in ONE device:

    A Speakerphone that works as well as a PolyCom device (never seen on a cell phone)
    PHYSICAL ring/vibrate switch (Palm Pre had this)
    Sunlight-readable display that doesn't disappear in the middle of the conversation
    2.5 mm Headphone jack (Older phones had this -- no pairing, no HORRIBLE sound quality, no recharging, no worming stuff into your ears)
    3.5 mm Stereo headphone jack (common, but never seen with the 2.5mm jack)
    USB charger/data
    Physical "m

  • If they made that phone without all the silly concept stuff it would be awesome (8MP camera, big screen and speed (my phone is not half as responsive as the phone in the video)) as Mozilla would leave the Android completely open and continue to update it. Shame it can never happen. =(

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