Since its founding in 1986, the Nokia Research Center (NRC) has been charged with developing mobile technology through the exploration science. The center recently celebrated its 25th anniversary on November 19 and staged events around the world to commemorate the milestone. CNET got to take part in the U.S. celebration at Nokia's Sunnyvale, Calif., headquarters by checking out some of its latest innovations, some of which are just begging to be touched, bent, or twisted.
At Nokia World 2011 in October, the Finnish handset manufacturer's big reveal was its Windows Phone-based Lumia 800. But there was another device at the show that grabbed a lot of attention--the Nokia Kinetic Device. Using a system of carbon nanotubes and a flexible elastomer, the concept gadget features a flexible display that you bend and twist to navigate through menus and perform tasks.
In its demo, Nokia showed how the Kinetic Device could be used to experience your photo gallery and music collection. In the previous photo, bending the device outward allows you to view a specific photo. Here, bending the device inward returns to the entire collection, which you can then scroll through by twisting the outer edges.
I gave it a try myself and found the Kinetic Device easy to use and undeniably cool. I was worried about how precise scrolling and selecting an item would be, but it was quite accurate. That said, I have doubts about how this technology would work with other smartphone functions.
The inspiration for the Kinetic Device actually came from another Nokia concept called the HumanForm. Instead of your typical solid, rectangular cell, Nokia wanted to create a more "humanized phone" that could adapt to you. The non-working prototype shown here features a flexible body, so it can bend if sit down with it in your pants pocket. You could interact with it in numerous ways, including through gestures, bending, twisting, and touch-sensitive controls.
Nokia also imagined an "electro tactile" display. With this enhanced display, people could actually feel textures in photos. The HumanForm could also recognize your mood and allow you to communicate with others in nonverbal ways (e.g. drawing a heart over a contact's image to let them know you love them).
The Nokia Gem concept introduces the idea of a cell phone whose entire body is a touch screen. The front, back, and sides of the phone are an interactive display that changes depending on what function you're using at a given time. In this example, a map is displayed on the map, while the side of the phone provides access to apps and RSS feeds.
Nokia also wants the Gem to take on chameleon-like capabilities by looking and acting like other devices. So, if you launched the camera app, the entire interface of the phone would resemble an actual camera.
Not all of NRC's ideas are focused on hardware. The center has also come up with apps and software like Nokia 3D World Gaze. This app, which is available now for Meego and Symbian users, gives a glimpse of the world inside and out.
With the app, you can point your phone's camera in any direction and Nokia 3D World Gaze will provide a view of what's on the other side. You can even point the phone downwards to see what's below, or switch to bird's-eye view.
Google Maps has taken its maps indoors, but Nokia is working on its own version. The company envisions that its indoor maps could provide such detail that one could use them to find a specific pair of shoes in a store.
Nokia is using Bluetooth 4.0 technology to develop indoor navigation. In this demo, the company attached a Bluetooth tag on a Parrot AR Drone helicopter and placed Bluetooth antennas on the four corners of the ceilings to triangulate its position and create a 3D map of the room.