Geoffrey Long


On Middlepublishing

A Poet's iPod Guide to Art

On Digital Storytelling and
21st Century Literature

On Toys and Transmedia

Fixing Disney

Fixing AOL

Digital Video Poetry

Bluetooth PCN

Bluetooth Personal Communications Network (PCN)

Update: it's worth noting that while Apple hasn't moved forward on any of this stuff, palmOne (previously Handspring) seems to be moving in this direction with their Treo 610 smartphone. The 610 hasn't actually arrived on the market at the time of this update (4/25/04), but word on the street is that it will incorporate more memory, a higher-resolution screen and, most importantly, Bluetooth. I wonder if it's possible to design peripheral controllers for a Treo? Like, say, a watch?

It's also worth noting that Motorola and frogdesign have teamed up to create something called the iDEN Offspring concept series, which resembles this idea quite a bit. There are things I'd like to see that aren't in their concept, like using a circular watch with a twist-control system in an outer ring, like the scrubbing wheels you see on external USB film controllers, but it's definitely a step in the right direction.

I love my iPod. It's a beautifully designed little marvel, and what it does it does very well. That doesn't change the fact that I believe there's a lot more that could be done with it.

While the headphones and remote are nice, what would truly be excellent is the incorporation of Bluetooth and a radio tuner into the iPod. By making the iPod into the base element of a Personal Communications Network, a wireless headphone/microphone set and a wireless wristwatch interface device would allow the user to interface with the iPod in a far more seamless, natural manner.

If I'm jogging, I could glance at my watch and switch tracks or radio stations. No fumbling for a remote, it's built into a device that I already naturally use. If I have a Bluetooth phone, and it rings, it automatically drops the volume on my headset by 40% and plays a ringtone over the music. I press a button on my watch and it automatically pauses the music and answers the phone. (A percentage of the hard drive could be set aside for caching radio shows in a TiVo-like manner for just this purpose.)

Better yet, integrate the phone's features into the iPod. If you integrated the hard drive capacity and scroll wheel interface of the iPod into a Handspring Treo or a Palm Tungsten W, you have a very impressive device. The base unit itself might be awkward, but the primary quick interface of the device is positioned as the watch and headset combination. Interaction with the base unit would be limited to adding new entries to the phone book, accessing the calendar, playing games or surfing the web. The few lines of text required for caller ID, accessing the phone book, checking your calendar or navigating music software (in other words, 90% of current usage) would be available on the watch.

By integrating the network device into lightweight, unobtrusive elements that we already wear (and the headset itself could be designed in such a way that it becomes casually wearable around the neck when not in use), users are saved the effort of fumbling for a phone when it rings.

One further feature that would be extremely nice: if an AirPort 802.11b or 802.11g antenna/receiver and Rendezvous sensitivity were integrated into the device and a streaming server feature was added to iTunes, it would become possible to wirelessly listen to any local iTunes collection that you had a password for, much like the way AirPort base stations show up in AirPort now. You could dial between different users' "broadcast stations" in the same way that you dial through radio stations. This would be extremely cool in a corporate environment, and shouldn't rankle the RIAA, since it's a closed-circuit system, very limited in its range and involves only one copy of any given MP3, which is located on the owner's machine.

Anybody want to play?