• By Sin Mei C
  • August 12, 2013

Nevermind the Screen Size. MotoX Heralds the Era of Ubiquitous Sensors

Google’s new flagship device, the Moto X, was heralded as the first real ‘sensor phone’, and Motorola Mobility is living up to its promise. Rather than focussing on slightly increasing the usual specs (screen size, camera, …) for the Moto X, Motorola chose to include two low-power chips, of which the sole function is to constantly process data recorded by the microphone, proximity, and other sensors, without excessively draining the battery. It might not be a high-end device, it might – depending on how you customize it – not be pretty, but as noted in The Era of Ubiquitous Listening Dawns, the Moto X is likely to be known 10 years from now as the device that helped to usher in the era of ubiquitous sensors.

“Devices of the future will be increasingly aware of the user’s current context, goals, and needs, will become proactive—taking initiative to present relevant information,” Pattie Maes, a professor at MIT’s Media Lab, is quoted saying. “Their use will become more integrated in our daily behaviors, becoming almost an extension of ourselves. The Moto X is definitely a step in that direction.”

As the Moto X is constantly recording and processing sensor information. For instance, it knows when it finds yourself in your pocket or purse (proximity & light sensor). When it gets pulled out, the device turns on its screen and shows you any outstanding notifications you might have. Gyroscope and accelerometer are monitored too; whatever the state the phone is in, twisting your hand in a screwdriving motion, opens the Moto X’s camera app. The Moto X is also constantly listening (sound sensor and voice recognition), at the ready for the moment you say ‘OK Google Now’ to activate Google’s assistant software.

Yet, ubiquitous sensor recordings offer so much more possibilities still. Imagine..

  • Your phone automatically adjusting its ‘interrupts’ (ringtones, notifications) to the situation you are in. For instance, if you are asleep or in a meeting, it mutes itself completely – unless you get a call from one of your emergency contacts.
  • Your phone knowing who you’re talking to, picking up that you’re arranging a next meeting, and automatically adding that to your calendar. (Far future, speech-to-text conversation is not quite there yet.)
  • Your phone constantly tracking your movements more accurately than ever. Where are you? And when getting from point A to B, are you walking, driving, on a bike? Services such as Google’s Activity Recording, announced in API form at Google I/O 2013, will get even more precise, and we’ll be able to get a precise overview of how active we were each days.
  • Your phone detecting your emotions – and that of the folks you’re talking to – by your pitch, volume and speaking-speed. That would be a great addition to the ‘infering mood from your phone behaviour’ research that is already happening.
  •  …

Tell us, what ‘context‘ would you like your phone to derive from constantly-on sensor recordings, and what smart things would you like your device (supported by a bunch of algorithms, of course) to do for you which would make your life easier or better?  Let us know, join the Summer of Context discussion!

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