5 shapes for computers to come

From wearable computers to multitouch surface tablets, the key to new form factor acceptance will be the extent to which these technologies fit into existing habits and lifestyles.

If you thought media tablets were a breakthrough in computing capability, get ready for further mind-boggling form factors that will transforms how your organization collects, shares and interactives with information technology. That's the subject of a new report from Forrester Research, "Beyond Tablets: The Next Five Computing Form Factors to Watch."

Actually, watch might not exactly be the right word, because I'm not entirely sure you'll be able to "see" all of the developments that Forrester discusses. In fact, the future of computing -- and I'm not distinguishing between personal or professional intent -- seems to lie in intimating objects or shapes that are are already a natural part of how we perceive and interact with reality.

Among the reasons Forrester postulates that these form factors will become successful in the years to come is that they are more "casual" than some of our other technology choices. They build on habits that we already understand and that are familiar, especially touch, which was the breakthrough moment for the smartphone movement even if you hate auto-correct like I do.

Here are the developments that Forrester is watching:

Wearables: You probably have at least one wearable form factor technology product in your possession already, in the form of a Bluetooth cell-phone headset or ear piece. The objects in this technology class are worn on or near the body in order to sense and communicate information that may be useful. Forrester considers the $99 Jawbone Up (portrayed in the video below) to be another example of this category. One of Up's applications is to remind you when you've been inactive for too long and should get up and walk around. Another includes an alarm that monitors you sleep cycle and better times your morning alarm for a moment near your desired wake-up time that better matches your sleep cycle.

Embedded devices: In my mind, this isn't exactly new especially in industrial automation, but the fact is that embedded computers will become more ubiquitous. An example is the $149.95 Echo Smartpen from Livescribe. Among other things, the pen can record your written and audio notes and then transfer them back to your computers. It can hold between 4 gigabytes or 8 gigabytes of information.

Flexible Displays: These are screens that could be folded, rolled or flexed. There really isn't a defined use for this technology yet, which is one reason that the category will probably be one of the longest to emerge, according to Forrester. Hewlett-Packard is involved in research and development surrounding this category, and it could be eventually used for things like packaging or as the "skin" for retail displays, wallpaper or so on. (Imagine, you could change your decor with a click!)

Mini-projectors: People have already begun shrinking projectors into smaller form factors. An example is the Brookstone Pocket Projector that works with the iPhone. But at almost $230, this technology won't really be for "everyone" until is embedded or at least a whole lot more cost-effective. Apparently, Apple already has a patent for a project of this nature.

Surfaces: These are large interactive displays and smart "boards," such as those used in some progressive school districts. They might include multitouch, voice, gesture control or even facial recognition. This is the category that describes the Microsoft Surface technology, which is already found in some hotel bars or the video "installations" at conferences that are enabled by Obscura Digital technology. Indeed, retail kiosks are probably a great example of where this technology really has the potential to shine.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com