In this week's "Cybershake," we peer into the technology crystal ball to divine what's in store for our beloved cell phones. Plus, we note one summer camp for kids that isn't about sparking interest and activities in the great outdoors. Instead, it's all about feeding their love for -- and creative potential in -- computer video games.
Just over two decades ago, mobile phones were the size of thick masonry bricks and were good only for making occasional, static-filled phone calls. Jump to today's cell phones and it's easy to see how far these portable digital communication devices have come.
But what's in store for the cell phone of tomorrow? The editors at Popular Science magazine put that question to industry experts and the answers they came back with may seem fantastic.
Already, many cell phones are doing double or even triple duty. In addition to being communication devices, portable phones have become capable digital cameras and even mobile entertainment systems. And to keep all those high-powered features working, will require new "fuel cell" batteries says Suzanne Kantra, technology editor for Popular Science.
Like the larger fuel cells designed for clean-energy cars, these batteries will use hydrogen to produce electricity. But unlike today's rechargeable batteries, these new power sources will last five times longer.
What's more, using fuel cells in phones will allow for new kinds of display screens -- ones you can poke your finger through without damaging it.
"A byproduct of the fuel cell is water vapor," explains Kantra. "One of the surprises we envision for the cell phone of the future is actually using the byproducts of a fuel cell … using the water vapor as the display for the screen."
The water would flow from the phone of the future as a small mist or fog, creating an ephemeral curtain. The phone would then shine whatever visual data needs to be displayed onto the mist, much like a film projector throws an image onto a silvery screen.
"It's not as really far-fetched as it may sound because they're actually using this type of displays for convention centers and other public venues to create an interesting visual effect even today," says Kantra.
And mobile phones will become more entertaining, say industry insiders. While today's phones can access some digital video content -- if they're used in cities that have fast wireless Internet access -- full-length television shows are not far behind.
"They [the cell phone service providers] are looking at a special handheld frequency where you can tune in to TV stations," says Kantra. "This is something that's actually in trials today."
And mobile phones of tomorrow won't just display digital content, but continue to help create new images too. And once again, new picture capabilities will come with a little liquid help.
"For the digital camera, we're also looking at using a liquid. This time for an optical zoom lens," says Kantra.
These lenses will allow the camera phones to magnify or "zoom in" on distance objects -- just like dedicated digital cameras. But unlike traditional lenses with complex moving parts, liquid lenses will fit on the thinnest phones and won't require a lot of power to operate.