iPhone 4 Could Be a Game Console, a Golf Coach – What Else?

The combination of gyroscope, front-facing camera, and high-def video output heralds entirely new classes of smartphone apps. But what kind?

iPhone 4


As the hubbub over the iPhone 4 announcement dies down, you can’t help but wonder: What sorts of new apps will the thing be capable of? Because, in addition to that sexy front-facing camera, there’s the internal gyroscope, which will essentially make iPhone 4 the most sensitive, cheapest, smallest motion-sensor on the planet.

iPhone 4

Steve Jobs, of course, emphasized all the gaming possibilities. And those are tantalizing: The gyro adds super-fine sensing of twists and spins (“6-axis sensing”), and those will make it into a device that could readily best the Wiimote in sensitivity and versatility, given the built-in display. But when you combine those capabilities with the front-facing camera and the high-def video outputs, what else is possible? Here’s a few ideas:

iPhone 4

1. iPhone as game console

The iPhone 4 is poised to become
the most sensitive game controller on the market. But do you really want
to be jostling around the very screen you’re trying to focus on? You
probably won’t have to. With the upgraded video output on the iPhone
4–offering 960 x 640 resolution–there’s every possibility that the
iPhone will replace game consoles, by directly outputting to your TV.

2. Health and Fitness


The addition of the gyro means that you could probably strap the iPhone 4 to your body and have it register your movements in precise detail. And that means an entirely new breed of apps. Imagine a golf-swing coach that you attach to your club, which tells you just where your swing is going wrong and what you can do to fix it. Or strap your iPhone 4 to a special harness, which then guides you through a series of yoga postures and tells you–breath–if you’re getting it right.

Moreover, there could be a new breed of apps that assists medical professionals to monitor an injured person’s gait, for example–and their progress during physical rehab.

3. Engineering and 3-D Modeling

The combination of an improved video camera and a super-precise gyroscope means you could readily create 3-D models from videos taken by the iPhone 4. That, in turn, will probably allow artists and designers some pretty amazing opportunities. Imagine if you could simply “copy” something in 3-D, tweak it to your liking, and then load it into a 3-D printer.

Moreover, the iPhone itself might be the foreman’s dream come true. Imagine assembling a pre-fab house. It comes pre-loaded with instructions on where to lay the iPhone 4, which gives you precise directions–and real-time feed back–for slotting all the pieces together. Far-fetched, I know. But these applications are already happening, and it’s only a matter of time until something like the iPhone 4 starts doubling as a real professional construction tool, given how much cheaper and ubiquitous it will be than high-end construction equipment. (And the iPhone is already something of a digital tool box, with looks like a leveler.)

iPhone 4

4. Augmented Reality


Obviously, AR is already on the
way, offering the possibility of layering data over the world around
you (for example showing you the Zagat ratings of restaurants nearby,
and exactly how to get there). But as DVICE points out, the front facing camera means that
the iPhone 4 will put photo booths to shame–you can imagine apps that
let you mug for the camera with the addition of mustaches and eye

5. 3-D Mapping

The iPhone 4 can now replace all manner of gear that outdoorsmen regularly pack, such as altimeters. Armed with micro-sensing of tilt, it can readily calibrate your position data–for example, while you’re walking up a hill–with topographical maps. That means an iPhone could eventually give you 3-D maps of terrain that adjust with your movements.

Got other ideas for us? Leave them in the comments below.

About the author

Cliff was director of product innovation at Fast Company, founding editor of Co.Design, and former design editor at both Fast Company and Wired.