Seamless mobility links us to our world anytime, anywhere, and in the mind's eye of John Finan, a Duke University graduate student and grand prize winner of Motorola's first-ever MOTOFWRD competition, it may soon help interpret the tones and mood of every day life.
Designed to improve social interactions, especially for tens of thousands of people who suffer from a mild form of autism called Asberger's Syndrome, Finan's "Mood Phone" would light up in a spectrum of color -- from warm reds to cool blues -- based on the verbal patterns of everyday speech received through the handset. Seen through the corner of the eye, the visual stimulus would help users interpret the mood and inflection communicated through the words and phrases they hear.
The biomedical engineering Ph.D. candidate's concept was judged to be best among the scores of ideas presented through Motorola's first-ever MOTOFWRD competition that asked college students to envision the future of seamless mobility. Concepts ranged from the fantastic to the practical: mobile technology that could access information, contacts, music and video with the blink of an eye, to location-aware cell phones that could lead to new friendships, inspire public debate, or help identify and book a vacant parking spot in a crowded downtown.
"I entered this competition because I thought Motorola was asking the right question with their theme of seamless mobility," said Finan, a Dublin, Ireland, native. "A new toy can entertain for a time but a new tool that really makes you feel closer to home and freer to move can change behavior, and that is how a revolution begins."
"The Mood Phone is a truly inventive technology solution to a problem most of us wouldn't assume could be answered with a mobile device," said Padamasree Warrior, Motorola's chief technology officer. "If the technology becomes reality, it would make all of our lives easier. But the most important idea here is that these college students who entered the MOTOFWRD competition have truly impressed us with their level of innovation and creativity."
For his grand-prize-winning concept, Finan was presented today with $10,000, a Bluetooth enabled BMW and a suite of Motorola products during a New York award ceremony. Finan will also serve an apprenticeship with Motorola's Chief Technology Office focusing on the next generation of Motorola mobile technology. Just like in his winning "Mood Phone" entry, he will be researching how devices that give physical cues enhance user experience.
Finan and three runners-up were chosen from a pool of entries representing more than 500 students and 220 universities. The entries were judged by a panel of industry experts including founder of dodgeball.com Dennis Crowley, founder of blackplanet.com Omar Wasow, futurist Dr. James Canton, youth culture expert DeeDee Gordon and sci-fi authors Cory Doctorow and Catherine Asaro.
"We were blown away by the entries we reviewed," said Crowley. "We saw everything from mood-affecting technologies to gadgets that speed household chores to communications platforms that allow everyone to voice their opinions to the world. Choosing a winner was difficult."
The three runners-up were awarded $2,500 and product prize packages. The students and concepts are:
Seamless Mobility Will ... -- James Goodrich, Northwestern University
Goodrich's vision of seamless mobility facilitates economic development, advances health care, and allows people to communicate across language barriers. His essay also explores a promise of cheaper, more accessible devices, software for "rent," allowing users to pay for functionality only when needed, and self-organizing, viral networks to give service to difficult-to-reach communities.
College Life 2010 -- Brian Ho, Virginia Tech
It is a dream come true -- a personal computer, PDA, GPS navigation platform, cell phone MP3 player and credit card all in one place. Ho's concept brings all of the information to display in the user's peripheral vision via specially-equipped glasses and a wristwatch.
Outspoken Architecture -- Ryan Panchadsaram, University of California, Berkeley
Panchadsaram's graphic piece redefines the notion of speaking your mind. His Outspoken Architecture prompts people to sound off via mobile video devices on everything -- concerts, current events books and more. The information is shared with others around the world who search the topic or are alerted to the video posting when in the area of the event, venue or tangible space by their location-aware devices.
Still to be named by public online voting is the MYMOTOCHOICE winner who will receive $2,500 and a product prize package. The competition's top 10 finalists' entries and voting are available at http://www.motorola.com/motofwrd . Online voting ends January 18 at 5 p.m. (CT).