The next great wave of mobile experiences is already here, says Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs. Speaking to a standing-room-only crowd of about 1,400 people at the Uplinq 2013 developer conference in San Diego this week, Dr. Jacobs laid out his vision for a world where smartphones, tablets, and even wearable computing devices like smartwatches are going to be so powerful and intuitive, they will actually augment people’s senses, in effect acting as a sort of Digital 6th Sense for us.
Jacobs pointed to three key requirements for making the Digital 6th Sense a reality: connectivity, seamless access to the Internet of Everything, context, the ability to filter out all the noise out there, and control, intuitive interfaces with all things digital, and even with physical objects in the “real world” that lack connectivity or intelligence—things like magazines, toys, consumer goods, etc.
The keynote featured demos of some of the building blocks for the Digital 6th Sense, including AllJoyn, an open-source, software framework that enables nearby devices and apps to discover and communicate with one another directly, without having to go through the cloud.
A case in point is Qualcomm® AllPlay™, the company’s new home audio platform enabled by AllJoyn. Rhapsody President Jon Irwin came to the stage to demo how AllPlay works in its iconic, music-streaming app. It enables you to play music from any device to any nearby, AllPlay-enabled speakers—regardless of the brand or OS.
Jacobs then took the crowd on a virtual journey to the Miami Dolphins’ Sun Life Stadium, which is piloting Qualcomm’s context awareness/proximity platform called Gimbal™. Taking advantage of Bluetooth™ proximity beacons, strategically placed throughout the stadium, the Gimbal-enabled Dolphins’ app enhances the fan experience by sending them personalized messages and special offers, based on their location, their personal preferences (it’s an opt-in service), and the time of day.
Augmented reality is another key technology for making the world more interactive and the Qualcomm® Vuforia™ platform is helping developers create apps that enable people to use their mobile devices to see and interact with the world in new ways. An early advocate of the Digital 6th vision, Professor Pattie Maes took advantage of the keynote to demonstrate how the Smarter Objects project at MIT is using both AllPlay and Vuforia as a graphical AR interface for changing the behavior of everyday physical objects like lamps and radios, connecting them together and controlling them in creative ways.
Qualcomm Vuforia team lead Jay Wright also participated in the Uplinq keynote, demonstrating Smart Terrain, the latest enhancement to the platform. Initially targeting gamers, this new feature identifies target boundaries (in this case, a table) and then overlays a 3D mesh over any objects within those boundaries (things on the table), giving gamers the ability to customize the game environment, for example growing ominous creeping vines around objects within the field of play.
The Qualcomm® Toq™ smartwatch
The climax of the morning was the official announcement of a new smartwatch that leverages many of Qualcomm’s core competencies to drive the wearable computing category forward. Among its selling points are a number of firsts.
For example, it's the first color, touch screen smartwatch featuring a display based on Qualcomm’s Mirasol® technology. It’s a reflective display (it uses ambient light), so it can be easily viewed in bright sunlight. It uses the first stereo Bluetooth headset with no connecting wires. It features high-quality stereo audio that can be conveniently controlled from your wrist. And both the smartwatch and the headset can be re-charged with a Qualcomm WiPower™ LE charging station that doubles as a carrying case.
With a $4 billion investment into R&D last calendar year, Qualcomm is on the front lines of developing technologies that enhance connectivity, increase computing capabilities, and provide new ways for people and things to interact. According to Paul Jacobs, that positions the company to provide the technologies and tools that will enable the developer community to create amazing mobile experiences that will merge the digital and physical worlds, ultimately making life simpler, better, and more fun.