Since we announced the UbiDuo 2 on January 26, certain people have questioned whether we should focus some of our efforts on mobile devices in addition to the UbiDuo 2. Since the general trend nowadays is towards more and more mobile devices which are taking the place of personal computers, it makes sense that many people may think that mobile devices would make a good platform for face-to-face communication.Some of you might be wondering why we didn’t answer that question a long time ago. Others may remember our pre-announcement of the UbiVia mobile communications application in the summer of 2010. The fact is that we have already put a significant amount of funding and development time into building a mobile application that works the exact same way as the UbiDuo, and yet the UbiDuo simply provides the best and most efficient method for face-to-face communication.During the research we performed as part of our 2005 NIH grant, we used several unsuspecting focus groups to compare face-to-face interaction on a variety of devices ranging from a cell phone keyboard to a laptop keyboard. The results of that research concluded that in order to have meaningful and non-superficial face-to-face conversations, a standard keyboard was the best way to go. A significant discovery from that focus group study was that the users preferred a smaller display on top of a standard keyboard connected to another half with a standard keyboard and display.
Somehow we pushed these original findings aside when we started the work on UbiVia, but that work helped to bring us back to square one – the fact that the answer was already looking back at us in the form of the UbiDuo.
This certainly does not mean that we don’t want any more feedback in regard to mobile devices. Everyone who loves the UbiDuo, those who haven’t tried the UbiDuo yet but know how powerful it is, and even naysayers who can’t comprehend how the UbiDuo can benefit anyone have nonetheless been a valuable source of feedback that has pushed us forward to the UbiDuo 2. You were the ones who told us the answer to the question you are asking. Instead of summarizing what we have already learned from you, let’s think about a few questions and see what answers you might have to them.
Let’s consider the mobile devices you might already have. Almost everyone carries around an iPhone or an Android phone. Why shouldn’t sComm make an app such as UbiVia available for those platforms which people could use to communicate with each other? Even though many apps are available on both iOS and Android platforms, how many people seriously want to spend hours thumb-pecking those little bitty keys or fixing touch-screen mistakes? Even if Swype or other speed-typing apps were used, the fact that touch screens require the entire keyboard to be displayed on-screen means less space available for a split-screen display. Wouldn’t it be better to have a large screen so you can fit as much of your conversation on the screen as possible?
Let’s go a bit further…how would you respond if your conversation with that seldom-seen relative was interrupted by a text message notification popping up in the middle of your mobile device’s screen, or if your mobile videophone or phone app started ringing? You could certainly ignore those interruptions, but what if your spouse is trying to reach you with an emergency call? Such interruptions can result in a complete break in the flow of your conversation due to the necessity of switching to a completely different context. Even though interruptions are a normal part of most conversations, in non-mobile situations the parties can continue their conversation even while one is texting, checking the mobile calendar, or looking for contact information to share.
If an app such as UbiVia is integrated into your mobile device, would it not be necessary to obtain another matching device in order to provide the same functionality as the UbiDuo? Or would you be brave enough to chase down friends, family members, employees or strangers and ask them to download UbiVia just so you can have a simple sit down face-to-face conversation with them?
Another thought is that since it’s impossible to guarantee that everyone would have the exact same version of an app on their mobile devices, there is always a possibility that incompatible versions could prevent interoperability between two persons’ devices, thus preventing any conversation from taking place until the situation is fixed.
Would your cell phone’s data plan be negatively affected by any heavy data usage? Would that extra mobile device also tie you to an additional monthly phone bill every month? What if the cell phone network is down? How then could your mobile device provide functional equivalency to the UbiDuo since the UbiDuo has its own built in wireless network that does not depend on a cell phone network, Wi-Fi or the Internet?
Then there is the stigma associated with use of cell phones and mobile devices in certain situations. How would you explain to your colleagues at work, or your peers in class, or your parishioners at church that you are using your mobile device for a valid communication purpose, and not texting someone or playing games instead of listening to the speaker? How would you convince the security people to let you use mobile devices to communicate in a courthouse or wherever cell phones are prohibited as such as at the DMV or Post Office? Do you think a deaf employee standing behind the Post Office counter would spend the entire workday communicating with customers on a cell phone?
Doesn’t it seem as if every answer to these questions points to the UbiDuo as the ideal solution for face-to-face communication instead of a mobile device? We welcome your feedback, input and thoughts on this topic.