Phones Gain Ability to Learn by Touching
NEW YORK (AP) - There’s a form of extra-sensory perception called psychometry, whose practitioners claim to learn things about objects by touching them. Smartphones set to be released this month by Samsung and Sony will have some of that ability: they’ll learn things when you touch them to pre-programmed "tags."
For example, you can program a tag with your phone number, and stick it on your business card. When someone taps the phone to the card, the phone would call you. Or you can put a tag on your night stand. Place the phone there, and it goes into "alarm clock" mode, holding your calls until the morning.
Samsung Electronics Co. announced this week that it will be selling these tags in the form of stickers it calls "TecTiles" - $15 for 5 of them. They’ll work with its new flagship Samsung Galaxy S III smartphone, set to launch in a few weeks, and several others already in the market, including the HTC EVO 4G LTE sold by Sprint Nextel.
Sony Corp.’s Xperia Ion, to be released June 24, will come with the ability to read different coin-like plastic tags that read "Home," ’’Office" and so forth. The tags cost $20 for four, and the phone can be programmed to react differently to each tag. The "Car" tag can launch a navigation application, for instance. Tapping "Home" can send a text message to the rest of the family that you’re home, and set the ringer volume to maximum.
The big push behind the technology, which is known as Near-Field Communications, comes from companies that see the phone as the wallet of the future. When touched to payment terminals, NFC-equipped phones can act as credit or debit cards.
But turning phones into credit cards is a tall order. Mobile payments already work with a few phones, but broad adoption is being held up while cellphone companies, banks, payment processors and retailers work out who pays for what and who benefits.
This ability to sense things close by is made possible by a new type of communications hardware in phones, complementing long-range cellular radios, medium-range Wi-Fi and short-range Bluetooth.
The latest version of Google Inc.’s Android software, known as Ice Cream Sandwich, comes with the ability to use NFC to communicate from phone to phone. When the backs are tapped together, the owners can trade information like contacts.
Samsung takes this one step further with the Galaxy S III. Tap two phones together, and they set up a connection via Wi-Fi. That means the owners can walk away from each other, and as long as they’re in the same room or so, they can transfer photos and even hefty video files between their phones.