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Hand-Held Haptic

Andy Clark has quite a lot to say in his book about the cell phone and how it's used as a tool. He sees it "like a prosthetic limb over which you wield full and flexible control, and on which you eventually come to automatically rely in formulating and carrying out your daily goals and projects." When I read that, it struck me as unnervingly accurate, the more so as I pondered how to get the guy sitting next to me at the Starbucks to turn the ringer down on his extra limb.

The technologies I cite here are not quite ready for purchase, but are expected soon, and I have to think they're just what Andy would have been expecting.

One snazzy technology from a Finnish company, F-Origin, really makes strides toward getting us tools that almost let us think the changes we want to see on the tiny screen. F-Origin has developed IRIS navigational software that allows you to view the content of a large display on your tiny cell phone screen. All you have to do is move your small screen around as you would a hand mirror to change the view and see different parts of a vista behind you. Instead, as you vary the angle of your hand, you see different orientations of the larger display. Reputed to be intuitive and easy to use, the display offers a touch screen with haptic feedback, giving the screen itself the feel of press-and-click responses.

Also trembling on the edge of the market is the Wings haptic technology for cell phones, from the U.S. company called Atrua. Its fingerprint protocol offers incredible opportunities for mobile commerce: A thumbprint can identify you for secure monetary transactions.

Think how convenient it will be when this brave new world allows us to have these things wired right into our temples. And, scary as that might seem, Professor Clark assures us that it won't be so different from just holding them in our hands.

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