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.
Calling the Future of Cell Phones
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.
"You can imagine stacking a couple of these together -- and they are much thinner than the plastic- or glass-based lenses -- to get a much more powerful lens," says Kantra. "A 3x optical zoom lens is what they've shown in France … We're looking at seeing that on Samsung phones later this year."
-- Larry Jacobs, ABC News
A Summer Camp Full of Fun and (Video) Games
Campfire staples such as singing "Kumbaya" and roasting marshmallows are nowhere on the radar for students at NYU's Camp/Game: A summertime video game creation mecca for teenage video game fanatics.
Kids age 15 to 20 years old from all over the globe flock to Manhattan to attend this program where they create their own video games using the latest in digital equipment. They're getting a workout even though they're designing the next-generation of simulation of, say football, rather than actually playing the sport, says Camp/Game director Nicole Tecco.
"They're doers, as opposed to the traditional conception that you'd have of video game kids playing behind a computer all day," she says.
Tecco says that's a good thing since camp attendees are exposed to almost every complicated aspect of the video game business. The program is designed to focus on gaming instruction rather than actual computer software programming. But the summer camp culminates in a final project where teams of campers each brainstorm a video game concept and pitch it to a panel of industry specialists for a prize.
Camp/Game is a uniquely creative and fun experience that doubles as college and job prep.
Tecco says through such summer programs, kids are "getting the working experience" -- the kind that allows young gamers to see if they have what it takes to be more than just players, but also a creative part of the software entertainment industry.
"I think they will definitely be a force to be reckoned with in the future," says Tecco.
Camp/Game is in its second summer and is the only summer camp for game creators on the East Coast. The first was held by the Digipen Institute of Technology in California for 30 eighth- and ninth-grade girls in 2003.
-- Michelle Hirsh, ABC News
Cybershake is produced for ABC News Radio by Andrea J. Smith.