For most, AT&T is simply seen as the company that delivers phone and internet and TV service to the US masses. But they also have a full-fledged R&D program, which spans multiple countries. Today they offered a glimpse into the fruits of those AT&T labs, with innovations ranging from clever to "OMG I WANT THIS NOW". Here are the three best things AT&T had to share.
Bio-Acoustic Data Transfer
The bio-acoustic demo was unquestionably the coolest of all the things at the AT&T Labs demo. The underlying premise is that everyone's bones have a unique acoustic signature, and using little more than a couple of piezo electric sensors and a smartphone, AT&T researcher Brian Amento was able to piece together a system which can use that signature to transmit data.
In the example in the video, a homeowner with a bio-acoustic door lock could generate a digital key that would live on a smartphone, and the door in question would only open when they (or whoever the key is intended for) was touching a piezo-sensor on both the phone and the door at the same time. Those sensors would communicate with each other and if the bio-acoustic signature matched on both the key and the door knob, it would unlock.
But another real-world application AT&T is looking at is to use this technology to exchange data between people. They envision two people being able to shake hands and exchange contact info for documents between one another. Crazy.
Got My Stuff
The RFID-happy Got My Stuff demo was maybe the most ambitious demo at AT&T labs. The idea is that all of your day-to-day objects you carry around with you -- wallet, phone, glasses, computer, whatever -- are tagged with an RFID chip. Your car would have multiple RFID antennas strategically placed to provide complete coverage. Those antennas would tie into a blackbox which would power the entire system.
When you get into your car and start the engine, the system would do a scan and make sure you have all your things, then report that back to you what you have and don't have via the head unit in your dashboard. Never again would you get pulled over only to realise you don't have your licence, or get all the way to the office, only to realise your forgot your laptop. But such an idea relies heavily on support from automakers and gadget companies alike, so it may be sometime before this concept becomes commonplace.
Haptic Steering Wheel
The haptic steering wheel is probably the furthest away from completion, but also straight forward, simple, easy to envision as a real product. It's also potentially very useful for drivers. A ring of vibrating motors embedded in memory foam are arranged around a steering wheel, and in theory, it would tap into your car or phone's GPS directions to give you haptic driving directions.
Need to make a left turn, the vibration will rotate around the wheel in a counter clockwise manner. Right turn coming up really soon? The Right side of the wheel will pulsate in rapid fashion. Not the flashiest thing on display, but maybe one of the more practical ones.