Digital Immersion: The Next Step Towards The Future Of Mobile Devices And Connectivity

What would the new generation of mobile device users like to see in upcoming technologies?


In considering how far we’ve come with mobile devices just in the last two decades, it’s entertaining to think about the next ten years. When asking the new power users, Generation Z or the “digital natives,” a couple of key themes emerge, both for mobile devices, as well as for the networks they reside in. Some key advancements have been made this week with the announcement of Arm’s latest “Premium Mobile” processor. It seems the next step towards the future of mobile devices and connectivity is “digital immersion.”

But first let’s look at what Generation Z would like. After all, they are some of the prime targets for future mobile devices and have been exposed to digital technology from a young age. To be part of that group, you have to be born in the mid-to-late 1990s to the early 2010s. Christian von Reventlow nicely illustrates their thoughts of the future in a presentation that was originally given at the SingularityU Germany Summit, called “Generation Z – Enabling Their Vision for the Future.” He was the project leader of the first chip-set development I was involved in, back in the ‘90s, in HDTV video encoding. Based on the results of a study with pre-teens and teenagers at the time, a couple of key themes emerged. For instance, in Generation Z’s imagination, virtual and augmented reality will become mainstream with movies being watched through glasses and concerts being experienced though the eyes of the singer. Digital communication will blend into the physical with communication to others happening in 3D. Actions will replace current user interfaces, instantly connecting you to anyone with one action. Robots will make your life easier with drones and personal assistants. Technology will enable new behaviors and be smart enough to “get” our emotions. And we will live in environments that simply know who we are, and what we are up to, with all our devices talking to us.

Of course, I ran the litmus test with my own 15-year-old homegrown “digital native” and most of the key themes rang true with her. Most eye-opening to me (and my daughter vehemently agreed) was that Generation Z thinks that they “can see all of their data, collected by objects, and can control its use.” To that end, while being digitally immersed a lot, some members of Generation Z have very healthy concerns about “devices that are always listening.” It will be interesting to see whether the upside of an “easier life” will eventually overpower the concerns about security and data ownership.

What are the stepping stones towards that future? This week we certainly came quite a bit closer with the release of “new Arm IP [that] delivers true digital immersion for the 5G era.” The increased performance in CPU, GPU and NPU processing will be needed to enable new applications that require PC-level productivity in the smartphone form factor for immersive entertainment on the go and machine learning “at your fingertips.” And the vendor ecosystem is enabling the efficient implementation and verification of designs based on these new IP blocks, as shown in “Cadence to Optimize Digital Full Flow and Verification Suite for Arm Cortex-A78 and Cortex-X1 CPU Mobile Device Development.”

What else is needed? Well, the mobile device is key. How users interact with it and how it connects is probably equally important. As for the networks, with 5G being in the midst of its rollout, latency is key, especially if Generation Z really wants robots to walk their dogs. About 17 minutes in, Christian von Reventlow’s presentation shows a great example of how latency impacts the controllability of devices: A balancing robot falls over when latencies become too long.

As to the user interface, I have been keeping my own personal “electronics history” from 2000 to 2020 that certainly shows the integration of capabilities. I recently found one of my old BlackBerry devices as part of that collection (see picture), that offered more integration than the original 2000’s collection of devices.

It is amazing how many aspects have been integrated over time into a smaller number of devices since my legendary Ericsson GH337 and my Sony Walkman with radio. The iPAQ with external keyboard, camera, GPS and two phones for different international standards was a travel commitment. Later I got by with a Blackberry and my 160GB music collection on an iPod classic, all leading to a single phone to be put into a VR headset a couple of years ago. It feels like there are only so many senses that can be integrated into a device if one wants to avoid in-body implants: vision, audio and touch. Will the future be a glove sensing our motions while an immersive headset is connected to the phone? Will it be a device on our wrist like the one analyzing my golf-swing? We will see. Lots of room for innovation!

There’s an exciting, fascinating, digitally immersive future ahead, and it’s enabled by strong partnerships like the Arm ecosystem!

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