The EyePhone

© 1997 L. Van Warren
posted 8/2/96

When I was young, in the sixties, I would look at the Dick Tracy comic strip and wonder when the two way, wristwatch picture radios would be invented, when the strange hover jet would come to pass.

In 1989, at the Seybold electronic publishing conference I saw the debut of Steve Jobs’ NeXT machine.  It featured electronic mail complete with little movies and animations.  You could send someone some video, an animation, even a movie preview via email ... no big deal.  But the time had not yet come; 8mm handycams were coming on the scene in full force and Hi-8 was around the corner.

Then came the $150 GPS street atlas that enabled a traveler with a laptop to track six global positioning satellites simultaneously.  Then came true digital video with the MPEG camera from Hitachi, 400x400 pixel resolution on a two by three inch screen from JVC, and similar offerings from Sony.

Then one day a friend told me if I wanted to send email to his pager, just say so in the header, and I could send him messages anytime, anywhere.  Not just the number.  The message.  From my computer to his pager.  Instantly.  Alas it was just one way...

But then it hit me.  What would happen if you combined digitally switched telephony with postage stamp iconic imagery with GPS with a telephone with a wristwatch.  Who could do that?  Who is good at building small radios and telephones?  Who is good at microelectronics?  Who understands human interface and market issues?  We know…

Okay here is what I want.  The EyeFone.  No bugs allowed.
Imagine taking a 35 mm slide and taping it to your wrist, only the image moves and you can hear little noises coming out.  That is what I want.  I want a wristwatch with a screen the size of a large postage stamp.  It will have a small port for a mike.  It will have a small bead for a camera, the kind you can make by scraping the top off a RAM chip.  If you want you can flip the bead up like a matchbox lid and twirl it around so the person you're talking to can see something besides your pearly whites.

No imagine that your lost, or in trouble, or just had a heart attack and you want to explain to someone where you are, but you can't.  No problem.  GPS position information is encoded compactly on the digital data stream, unnoticed compared to the processing required for encoding and decoding the fast two way iconic imagery.

Scenario A:
I am late for a meeting at corporate headquarters, somewhere in near Alameda.  The message said, "look for a big lawn and ducks, then turn right".  I’ve been driving for a while and haven’t seen a big lawn yet.  Frustrated, I hit a button and place a call.  I hang my wrist out the car window and say, "This is where I am.  Which way do I turn, Left or Right?"  The person’s face on the screen smiles and says, Oh, you’re in Arlington Heights, better pull a U-turn and come back our way.  And so it goes, in a few images and quips, I am back on course and arrive at the meeting none the worse for wear.

Scenario B:
It is late at night.  Arriving late into town a business woman is struggling to find her ATM card in a poorly lit lot.  She looks up to find a man staring at her, and looking around.  He walks towards her rapidly.  She hits a button on her wrist.  A light in the 911 precinct goes  raises her hand and says, "Smile you’re on Candid Camera."  The man puts his hand in front of his face and runs away.


So my daughter comes in one Saturday morning.  I am sitting in front of my bank of computers talking to a postage stamp.  It is a lively conversation.  She’s not sure why I would talk to a little snippet of paper palmed carefully in my hand, but she's so used to it, she just ask me the question she came to me with.  A picture is taking shape.  I am concerned about feedback between the microphone and the speaker, but then I get a flash of insight and the problem is solved, no different than a speaker phone.  Bevel the case, directionalize the mike.  Next issue...

To arrange for a consulting agreement just click the link that follows:

lvwarren at wdv dot com