The form factor of smartphones today: a black rectangular slab. Spartan and efficient, but lacking character. Keen to reimagine the tool that’s become an indispensable part of our lives, French designer Jerome Olivet has created – in spirit – Alo, a “gelatinous” handheld that resembles a crystal door handle.
Designed to sit snugly in the palm of its owner, Alo takes advantage of several nascent technologies. The right combination could well transform our interaction with devices the in the same way touchscreens did. Interactive holograms, for one, render the conventional screen unnecessary, as images and application interfaces will be projected into mid-air.
Accurate and intuitive voice controls mean you can quickly bark out instructions instead of tap-tapping through a series of menus (“send this picture to everyone in my family”, “remind me to pick up new suits this Saturday”, “I’m declaring a diet cheat day”). You’ll also be able to read and scroll with your eyes alone – presumably due to a camera that tracks your eyeball movements.
“It is a true artificial intelligence,” said Olivet, who heads the project. Fellow prolific designer Philippe Starck is in on it as well. “We can no longer separate from this device,” he adds.
There are, however, some rather unsettling features proposed. A self-healing outer skin that can shrug off scratches feels more Starship Troopers than we’d like, and the phone’s ability to pulsate heat (on top of regular vibrations) sounds like a surefire recipe for a fire hazard, should it ever malfunction.
That said, it’s up to Olivet and French phone-maker Thomson to nail down the final product. Our take? We’re not sure beaming personal information into plain view, or having to verbalise our Google searches for puppy pictures, is a win for privacy, which has already become a precious commodity. But there’s potential tech out there to address those concerns, too. If Thomson can cram all that into Alo, we may be looking at the true “next iPhone”.