Tag Archives: virtual reality

Smartphones: What Comes Next

Photograph of woman wearing futuristic high-tech glasses.Samsung recently introduced its new Galaxy Note 8 which has updated features such as advanced security, memory management, a new display, enhanced cameras and wireless charging. Apple is expected to announce the new iPhone 8 today with similar technology enhancements. The announcement and rollout of updated smartphones is becoming an annual event anticipated by customers and tech followers alike. The technology continually improves and battery life gets extended, but the new devices look very similar to the original iPhone introduced in 2007. Some are looking beyond the incremental improvements and asking the question: what comes after the smartphone? What will computing and communication look like in the future? In this blog post I will explore some of those questions and some of the predictions. I look forward to your feedback and ideas as well.

What Comes Next

One of the new features of the Samsung device is the ability to dock it with a full size keyboard and monitor, thus expanding the computing power of the handheld. I still remember the first time I docked a laptop, which meant that I could get rid of the big box on top of or under my desk. Just as laptops have largely replaced the desktop box, it appears that the smartphone may take over the laptop for ease of use and functionality.

The small screen and keyboard on a smartphone are inconvenient at best and often are an outright pain. I can often be seen typing with my little finger because I can’t figure out how to get my thumbs any sharper. What if we could get away from the need for a keyboard for input and a screen for display? We are still using the QWERTY keyboard which was first laid out in 1872 in order to slow down typists, not to speed them up.

The Return of Glass?

In an April ZDNet article, Steve Ranger predicts that we will move away from the smartphone and towards Google Glass type devices coupled with virtual and augmented reality. That satisfies my criteria by replacing the screen with a projected image and the keyboard with voice commands such as those spoken to Siri and Alexa and Bixby. Google Glass was great technology but it had an image problem and was not well received by those not wearing the glasses. There were concerns about privacy stemming from the fact that they had a camera that could be turned off and on with minimal indication, allowing covert use. There were also safety concerns, since wearers could easily be distracted while crossing a busy street, although staring down at a smartphone clearly has its own safety issues. The Glass technology is ready, but there is still a stigma to its use and acceptance.

My Wish List

I wish for a device that is always connected to the cloud and lets me project several large screens at once on surfaces such as a wall, a building, a sidewalk or even suspended in air. I also want to be able to share that image with others at any time. I want it to flawlessly understand my voice commands and dictation and understand contextually where I am at and what I might request next. I want it to connect seamlessly to other devices such as my smart car and my smart home devices. Finally, I would like to get rid of the small device in my pocket or in my hand so I can be free to explore the natural world with full attention.


What does your ultimate computing/communications device look like? Are we close to your vision or are there still some hurdles to overcome? Let me know what your dream device looks like.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

Baseball Technology 2017

With the 2017 baseball season approaching the midway point, I have been reading about the decline of fan interest, ticket sales, and athlete recognition. An article from my local newspaper reported that not one baseball player is among the 100 most famous athletes in the world, based on endorsements, social media following, and internet search popularity; those spots are taken by soccer, tennis, football, basketball, and even a few golf stars. I wonder what technology could do, if anything, to pull baseball out of this popularity slump.


Technology is showing up in some unusual places, including wooden baseball bats. Sensor manufacturer Zepp has teamed up with the Old Hickory bats to create a smart bat. A device is built into the knob of the bat that records data points like swing speed, angle and motion and shares that information via Bluetooth to a connected device. A visualization shows the swing and connects to previous data to compare that swing with others, which allows the player to correct any issues in order to reach maximum performance. These sensors are available for tennis rackets, golf clubs and softball bats. While smart bats are meant for improving player performance I wonder if the visualization can be shared with fans as well, perhaps on the Jumbotron, to give tech-savvy fans something to do between pitches.

Of course, technology is also used for tracking statistics on pitches. For stadiums equipped with TrackMan, fans in the stadium and at home can track live information on pitch velocity, spin and exit speed among various radar tracked data points. This is sophisticated technology but I wonder if data driven fans even need to go to the ballpark any more or can they sit at their computer and analyze every pitch and swing as it happens? Is it more important to see the action or analyze? I foresee the day when machine learning enters into baseball and a computer directs players on their next move based on historical and real time statistics. Hackers could have a field day with that interaction.

Stadium Technology

We can now track every player and every swing but that still does not get people in seats, which is a real problem in baseball today. To try to overcome that problem, stadiums are being built and retrofitted with wireless access points for between inning entertainment and high definition cameras and displays so you won’t miss any action, even if you don’t have the best seat in the house. Various baseball franchises have developed fan apps that allow you to watch instant replays and view statistics on your smartphone or tablet while in the stadium. Apps also allow you to order up snacks and have them delivered to your seat, for a premium. The stadium experience today is a combination of live action and device interaction. There are virtual reality applications in development that will allow you to get a bird’s-eye view of the action or zoom into one particular area of the field using cameras positioned around the stadium. Reality meets virtual reality.


There are a number of new technologies introduced or in development designed to bring fans back to baseball, either in the stadium or watching at home or on a mobile device. Time will tell if they are successful but with the price tag of new stadiums, there is a lot at stake. Have you been to a live baseball game recently? How was your experience? Let me know your thoughts.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

Education Trends in 2017

Image of a student walking a road labeled 2017 with a question mark on the horizon.I try to follow higher education trends to make sure I know what is coming and can gear my teaching appropriately. This blog highlights some of the strategies and technologies I think will emerge in 2017. We will see in 12 months if I was right.

Improved Distance Education

I think technologies that create a shared classroom experience will improve distance education in 2017. Students will increasingly enroll in distance education,  so it is important that we improve the virtual classroom.

Immersive virtual reality is growing in popularity. I was one of the first to try out HP’s Halo telepresence system, now a Polycom product. Each of the teleconference rooms were physically identical, right down to the wall coloring and furniture. The idea is that you see your colleagues across the country or the world on the bank of monitors in front of you and feel like they are just on the other side of the table. It is a good idea and it works great but is expensive to purchase and maintain. Imagine if you could take this same technology into distance education using virtual reality. You could hold debates, work on shared projects, and hopefully improve the overall education experience to the point where it approximates an in-person experience. A September article from the Center for Digital Education highlights some of the specific developments in this area. The experience won’t change overnight but it is an important tool to improve distance education and an area that I will be monitoring.

Industry Partnerships

I believe that we need to do a better job of matching curriculum with skills needed in the workplace. In ancient Greece, students attended Plato’s Academy to learn thinking skills and become philosophers. Today we also need to equip students with applied skills they can use to further the mission of an employer. Rather than guessing what skills employers need, it is important to form partnerships and allow input into curriculum design. This could also lead to more internship opportunities where students could practice newly-learned skills. A strong partnership will help schools meet the needs of industry.

Standardized Certification System

Particularly in information technology and information management, there are a large number of available professional certificates. They range from security to advanced networking to systems administration. As an employer, how do I know whether a new or current employee presenting these certifications can really do the job? How do I know whether organizations offering these certifications are legitimate? Author Matthew Meyer, in a 2016 article, argued for a national certification system. This would be a certification system for certifiers, if you will. With the rising popularity of certificates this is an idea whose time has come because it would add some legitimacy to a certificate and assure quality and rigor to an employer. As I write this however, the American Commission for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) is fighting for its survival in the courts after the federal government cut off student aid for people attending those certified colleges. It could take several revisions to work out an appropriate certification body similar to the current regional accreditors for non-profit universities.

Political Changes

The political climate in the United States changed with the election and that could mean a shift in direction for post-secondary education. There could be more focus on vocational education, research, or toward non-degreed education such as skills-based certifications. The government influences the direction and emphasis on higher education through federal funds and guaranteed student loans. I believe that there will be a split emphasis on advanced research and skills-based education as we focus on current and anticipated workforce needs.


There is a lot changing in higher education and it’s an exciting time to work in this field.

What changes are you seeing in education? Are we taking advantage of technology and ideas on improving learning? Let me know your thoughts.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.