Seabird – a concept smartphone that could kill off laptops

24 Sep 2010

Firefox creator Mozilla has published concepts for a futuristic mobile phone that beams keyboards onto hard surfaces and could be an effective replacement for laptop computers.

Firstly, it is only a concept but is in keeping with other concepts I have seen lately, including a pen-like device from Intel that beams a high-definition display onto a wall and projects a keyboard onto a surface. Don’t be too surprised if discussions are taking place with vendors like Starbucks or airliners to provide the right surfaces and lighting conditions for these future computers/smartphones.

Mozilla’s Seabird ‘Open Web Concept Phone’ has been created by designer Billy May.

The concept device has dual pico projectors, an 8-megapixel camera, would be capable of wireless charging and would have a detachable Bluetooth haptic clicker device for doing presentations.

Seabird projecting

Mozilla Labs launched the Concept Series in 2009 with an open call for participation and has had thousands of people join in, share ideas and develop concepts around Firefox, the Mozilla projects and the open web as a whole.

“The Mozilla Seabird, part of the Mozilla Labs’ Concept Series, is an experiment in how users might interact with their mobile content as devices and technology advances,” May wrote.

“Drawing on insights culled from the Mozilla community through the project’s blog, a focus quickly developed around frustrating physical interactions. While mobile CPUs, connectivity and development platforms begin approaching that of desktops, the lagging ability to efficiently input information has grown ever more pronounced.

“The Seabird, then, introduces a few possibilities into how user interaction might evolve with the advancing motion capture and projector-driven innovation in the market. First out, the Seabird imagines how a multiple use dongle might augment the crowded gestural interface with greater precision and direct manipulation of content in 3D space.

“With mobile phone companies such as Samsung, LG and Motorola moving towards display applications for projectors, the technology remains open for expanding user interaction and input at the same time. The Seabird, on just a flat surface, enables netbook-quality interaction by working with the projector’s angular distortion to deliver interface, rather than content. With the benefit of a dock, each projector works independently and delivers laptop levels of efficiency,” May said.

To see a video explaining the Seabird concept, click here.

Seabird concept

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years