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HP Invents - PC Concept & Design Innovation Tour

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The other day Riyad was treated to a sample of blue sky thinking from Philips, demonstrating products that could potentially come to market in the near future. Yesterday it was HP’s turn. At an exclusive event in London Phil McKinney, Worldwide Chief Technology Officer of the Personal Systems Group and Stavy Wolff, Worldwide leader of the Industrial Design Team, came over from the US to demonstrate its ‘HP Invent’ slogan in action. What they were demonstrating weren’t actually working products however, but merely mock-ups of what we could be seeing in around ten years time.

McKinney started off by saying that HP was very conscious that it needed to remain in touch with younger consumers, many of whom have only ever known a world with PCs and the Internet. He stated that HP studies how younger people used technology even to the extent of employing Design Anthropologists to literally follow people home. So if you’re under 25 and a strange man in a beard is stalking you it’s not necessarily anything to worry about – it’s just an HP engineer trying to make better gadgets.

The key message that McKinney was pushing echoed the sentiments of Philips – simplicity. Phil however, was focussed on devices, such as HP’s successful iPaqs. Currently these are forced to include a large number of radios in order to ensure that they will work in different situations and all over the world – there’s Wi-Fi, there’s Bluetooth and there’s the various GSM standards and 3G of various flavours. Currently a typical device could have five radios, soon it could be up to a dozen. Dealing with all this connectivity adds complexity for the user and complexity for the designer and dealing with this is something that HP has spent time thinking about.

Its approach is in many ways quite radical and one it believes flies in the face of current industry trends. Rather than adding more radios from its devices it wants to take almost all of them out. Instead, it wants to move them to a single device that will act as a total wireless gateway and hub. This device will let every device you come into contact with communicate to get online. As this device will be central to everything you do it needs to be something you’ll carry with all the time and HP’s braniacs settled on a watch. However, this being 2016 it’s a futuristic bracelet, with a projected holographic display. It sounds and looks pure Star Trek, which of course is exactly what you want from something like this. McKinney admitted that this smooth, sleek design would take several generations to achieve, citing Moores Law as the way it would get there. McKinney revealed that the device would communicate with everything else using Ultra-Wide Band (UWB) to avoid the power and bandwidth issues of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

McKinney then displayed a number of other concepts. First off was a flexible display, described initially as a ‘BiPolar State Display’ but also known as a ‘Mat’. McKinney suggest a usage model where a housewife would be able to keep an eye on the news, the kids daily schedules or planning that evening dinner. These displays can be of various sizes depending on the types of uses they will be put – simple web pages on a smaller one and games for the kids on the larger ones.

The designs showed a clear move to thin clients, with radios and hard disk removed to allow for thinner, lighter devices with much longer battery life such as the tablet above.

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