Cellphones define our times in the way that cars defined the early 20th century: They're the clearest, most tangible sign that we truly live in the Future. Impressive new cellphone technologies are being developed each week, and there's no telling what wonderful procrastination possibilities our portable speak-boxes will have in a few years.
Because we're telling you right now, some of this stuff borders on magic ...
6Touchscreens With the Texture of Fur, Sand or Anything Else
Modern cellphone technology offers all manner of audiovisual achievements, and even the ever-elusive Smell-a-Vision seems bound to make an appearance sooner or later. Yet there's one sense that even the most accomplished smartphone is unable to stimulate: touch. Sure, the manufacturers try, but at the end of the day, the vibration function is just a buzzer and the touchscreen is just a hunk of glass that you tap while it autocorrects your words into nonsense. But what if they made the touch feedback system so good that the screen under your fingers would turn into fur, or sand, or brick? That shit isn't science, it's witchcraft.
But Science, maintaining careful eye contact, courteously flips that statement the bird. Because not only do they have the technology all figured out, but it's totally going to hit the market within a few years.
You could be TouchSkyping your grandpa by 2015.
In fact, there are two different ways of achieving the seemingly impossible. A company called Immersion is developing a more sophisticated version of the vibration function. Using a set of advanced, localized vibrations, the technology is able to manipulate your sense of touch to make you think that the smooth touchscreen has ridges and bumps. Add a correct set of vibrations to a picture of, say, a tiled wall, and you'll be able to feel all the bumps and cuts of the surface as if it were real.
Which is great news for everyone with a kitchen tile fetish.
Another, even more impressive version of the technology is under development by a new company called Senseg. Their approach utilizes the Coulomb force, better known as the static electricity that causes a balloon to stick to your hair when you rub it. Manipulating the electrostatic forces between the touchscreen and your skin, Senseg can induce sensations of different surfaces, but the technology also actually enables the user to push a virtual marble around the screen and make it feel like a real object.
"Alright, that's enough rocks. Bring on the taint page."
Think of the applications of this technology. For one thing, forget about people who still insist on slide-out keyboards for their phones -- this could mimic the feel of plastic buttons under your fingers. People who have lost their sight could operate their iPads without a problem -- all they'd have to do is switch the language to Braille. Virtual cats and dogs could be petted just like real ones. And let's not even discuss the hordes of inevitable iBoobs apps, because otherwise we'll be here all night.
5Phones That Can Smell and See Disease
Whenever cellphones and cancer are mentioned in the same sentence, said sentence tends to exist on a view-hungry news site and include the words "may cause." Researchers at NASA decided to approach the issue from the other direction: Wouldn't it be cool if we could diagnose cancer with our phones? After all, they're essentially small computers that we constantly keep about our person. They then proceeded to bring their dream to reality in the strangest way possible: by giving your phone the ability to smell disease.
"You have (1) new message and (4) new strains of hepatitis."
They achieved this by devising a tiny sensor that, once installed in your phone, is able to pick apart the chemical compounds in your breath. The chip is about the size of a nickel and works with 32 sensors that allow it to "smell" predetermined levels of various chemicals. Said chemicals, incidentally, include chlorine, carbon monoxide, ammonia and methane -- so it really does seem like we're going to also wind up with a fart-detection app in the process.
And then it'll scream "IT WAS STEVE" and send a text to everyone.
By analyzing the chemical levels in someone's breath, the phone will be able to determine whether they have a number of diseases, including lung cancer and diabetes.
If you don't feel like waiting and want your diagnosis-by-phone right now, look no further than the University of Michigan. They have very recently developed, no kidding, a phone app that can totally see if you have skin cancer. All you have to do is take 23 pictures of yourself and run them by the app -- it will analyze the pores and crevices of your skin for anomalies and diagnose the shit out of you.
The application comes with a catch, though: All those pictures have to be from different angles and you must be butt naked. So unless you're really flexible, or really really handy with the camera timer, you're going to have to ask a friend to help you out.
"Hey man, could you take a picture of my taint? It's for cancer research this time, I promise."