Smartphones have only become powerful enough to display high-quality 3-D graphics in the last couple of years. But Intel and Nokia have high hopes for the future of the technology. To this end, they’ve just opened a new research lab. It’s all about “immersive” experiences.
The Intel Nokia Joint Innovation Center (INJIC) officially opened its doors today. There are actually three parties involved in the new enterprise: Chip-maker Intel, cell phone master Nokia, and the University of Oulu in north-central Finland. Nokia, despite its slipping grip on the smartphone (and being completely sucker-punched by the touchscreen phone revolution) does lots of innovative research, and this new facility is destined to craft “compelling mobile user experiences that could leverage the rapidly increasing capabilities of mobile devices.” One particular target is the Intel-Nokia collaborative OS Meego, as it “provides the greatest flexibility for developing new 3-D experiences on mobile devices,” and this also explains the choice of Oulu, which has a “focus on future telecommunications solutions” and lots of “3-D interface expertise.”
According to Rich Green, Nokia’s SVP and CTO “3-D technology could change the way we use our mobile devices and make our experiences with them much more immersive.”
Boil all this marketing speak down, and what do you get? Intel and Nokia have realized that a compelling user experience is crucial to achieving a success in the smartphone game–it’s not enough to have powerful handsets that can do lots of “cool stuff” if they’re too hard or too frustrating to use. As smartphones get smarter–potentially with next-gen low-power Intel chips inside–they’ll get better and better at graphics, and the platform is ripe for a 3-D UI. That’s because the small screen on smartphones needs to give access to a plethora of different bits of software, and combined with touchscreen and accelerometer sensors, 3-D interfaces is one clever way to connect the phone’s user with the task they’re trying to do. It’s much like the coming 3-D revolution in desktop computing UIs.
Smartphone paradigm leaders Apple and Google are currently following a simplified 2-D interface, and Microsoft’s upcoming Windows Phone 7 system even takes this notion to its flattest, most reductionist end. So Nokia and Intel are planning to steal a march on the technology that may succeed it.
There’s just one question to ask Nokia and Intel: It’s fabulous to sponsor deep-thinking research like this, but with the traditionally slow-burning nature of academic study, is it really the right way to develop a new product that lots of your future business may hinge on?
To keep up with this news, follow me, Kit Eaton, on Twitter.