3 New Technologies Making their Way to an iPhone, Xbox and Nexus Near You
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For the Classical Greeks, glimpsing the future was the prerogative of the gods. To the degree that humans could imitate (but never match) this feat, they were considered “godlike.” For the Trojan princess Cassandra – who spurned the the god Apollo's affections – seeing the future was a deadly curse, but only because no one believed her. The sea god, Poseidon “remained relentlessly angry with godlike Odysseus.” In fact, “godlike” is practically synonymous with Odysseus in Homer's Odyssey, just as is it for the temperamental, murderous Achilles of the Illiad.
But while Achilles and Odysseus were close friends, they were godlike for different reasons. Achilles was the son of a goddess. Godliness was in his DNA. Odysseus had no such illustrious ancestry; rather, it was his uncanny ability to gather information and from the most unlikely of sources, combined with brilliant planning, that made him “godlike.”
In the Information Age, everyone gets a glimpse of the future. What was once the province of gods and heroes has become the playground of bloggers. In the months prior to the Sept. 12 release of the iPhone 5, for example, an unprecedented number of leaks appeared all over the Web. Everyone seemed to know exactly what the iPhone 5 looked like, from the screen size, dimensions, features – right down to the two-toned casing. The problem for technology investors isn't just the 24/7/365 news cycle. It's rumors, leaks, and vaporware.
How is a lowly retail investor to stay ahead of the curve? Well, it would help to have a look at what the companies have on the drawing board. Unfortunately, that information is usually proprietary, available only to insiders.
However, there is one publicly available -- if difficult to navigate -- source: The U.S. Patent Office. In this article, we're going to take a look at 10 exciting new patents filed for and granted to companies like Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL), Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT), and Google (NASDAQ: GOOG).
Let's begin with Microsoft's Xbox.
Microsoft: Immersive Gaming (Patent Pub# US 20120223885 A1)
Immersive Gaming is Microsoft's Vision with a capital ”V” for the future of the Xbox. In this brave new Xbox world, the natural surfaces around you will be incorporated into the game in a full 360° gaming experience. Trees will appear on your walls while you stalk an enemy combatant through the jungle. The dark tower in the distance is rendered in all its antediluvian horror next to the picture of Grandma from last Christmas.
When will it happen? Not until 2014, at least. According to GameStop, either the Sony Playstation 4 or the Xbox 720 is going to be sitting out 2013, and the smart money is on Xbox being benched.
Apple: Virtual Keyboard (Patent Pub #US 20120227006A1)
The keyboard is an impediment. Its clunky, unwieldy, keys stick. Let's get rid of it, by introducing a Virtual Keyboard. Theoretically, we can type anywhere we want; as long as the computer understands that by placing our finger here instead of there, we mean the letter “A” and not “T.” Apple's implementation of this concept varies by patent, but typically involves a blank, razor-thin Touch surface.
When will it happen? Likely 2014. Apple has published a number of refinements to its original concept, extending the virtual keyboard concept across the board, from the iMac+ to the as-yet-unreleased iMac Touch.
Google: Radial Menus (Patent Pub #US 20120192108A1)
Both Google and Apple are working on “radial style” menus. Most menus are pretty one-dimensional: One selection folds out to a second, third, or fourth option, sometimes on a different screen. Radial menus add a much-needed second dimension to user choices while preserving precious real estate on touch screens.
When will it happen? Likely next year. Look for radial-menus on the next flavor of the Android OS. Apple has filed two similar patents over the last two years.
In today's world, there are no shortage of Cassandras who claim to see the future. Analysts, dishwashers, cab drivers, politicians, celebrities: Everyone has a pet prediction, everyone is a pundit. In fact, the only people that never seem to find their way into the 24/7 news cycle are the ones who actually engineer Tomorrow. The U.S. Patent Office provides a glimpse of things to come that even “godlike” Odysseus would envy, allowing the diligent investor to circumvent non-disclosure agreements and peek over the shoulders of some of the most brilliant minds in Silicon Valley.
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