This writer stepped into the metaverse for a flying taxi ride at the recent Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. And roll, fold, flip – more nifty tech is coming up in the world of mobile phones.
One of the most popular stands at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) Barcelona, Spain, this year was from South Korea’s SK Telecom, with its air taxi ride simulation using virtual reality (VR) headsets. Visitors queued up for hours to get on. As you step into the front seat of the four-seater air taxi mock-up, you wonder: will you be able to last the whole ride; what if you end up with a headache and dizziness from the VR experience?
The ride was three minutes long, but once I was strapped in with a seat belt and VR headset, another passenger’s headset had to be configured at least three times. I felt anxious sitting around indefinitely with a VR headset, not being able to see the real world. “We’re experiencing technical difficulties,” said SK Telecom.
Once the four of us in the taxi were equipped with working VR headsets, our flight from a futuristic Busan took off. It involved our seats physically moving in the direction we flew with a vertical drop towards the end, to landing on a rooftop.
Not unfamiliar to VR, I got off feeling a bit disoriented. Would I test other VR experiences again?
There’s only one way to follow this journey and see how it improves or if it ever takes off.
Stepping into the metaverse for a flying taxi ride was just one of many innovations on display at MWC Barcelona, which returned to full force since the pandemic.
According to the GSMA (which represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide), over 88,500 people attended from around the world with 56% coming from industries adjacent to the mobile ecosystem.
Another innovation, 3D-holographic telepresence, which is still a work in progress, was showcased by Telefónica, one of Spain’s biggest telecom operators that combines 5G, fibre and edge computing technologies.
Chatting to FORBES AFRICA, Telefónica said it generates 3D avatars to use in different environments. “We have 21 cameras equipped in the cabin to generate an avatar, with each one producing two to three gigabytes of information per second, so that’s 40GB-50GB every second.”
Once the 3D avatar is created, it can be teleported in realtime to augmented reality (AR) and VR environments using different scenarios, useful for live streaming or recordings, explained Telefónica
The company’s combination of various technologies is a means of access for augmented, virtual, mixed or metaverse reality applications in the future.
Despite the metaverse being in the limelight, the nextgeneration of mobile phones were on full display: roll, fold, flip – there was something for everyone.
Oppo showcased its new Find N2, and Find N2 Flip, its first clamshell foldable that will make its way to South Africa this April. The pocketable N2 Flip will go head-to-head with the Samsung Z Flip 4 and Huawei P50 Pocket, expanding on the growing segment. Elvis Zhao, Chief Marketing Officer for Overseas Markets at Oppo, told FORBES AFRICA: “Oppo is confident in the future of foldable phones; we estimate that in 2023, growth rates will be 100%, and better than 2022.”
Its first folding phone, Find N, released in December 2021 exclusively in China, reportedly sold out within five minutes. “Moving forward, Oppo will offer two form factors, a clamshell and a horizontal folding phone to overseas markets,” said Zhao.
The Find N2 Flip has a unique design choice of a 3.26-inch vertical cover display, making it larger than Samsung’s 1.9-inch offering. It currently supports Oppo-only apps with third party support expected.
The pocketable device features a waterdrop Flexion Hinge that underwent durability tests for 400,000 folds. When opened, the crease is hardly noticeable. It can be used hands-free propped between 45 to 110-degree angles.
The device opens to 6.8-inches and at 191g, is marginally bigger than the Z Flip 4. It is powered by a Mediatek Dimensity 9000+ chip, 8GB of RAM, and a 4300mAh battery, which is the largest on any clamshell currently on the market. It has a 50MP Hasselblad camera and a 32MP selfie-cam that supports hand gestures to take photos and videos.
Oppo also showed prototypes of its Zero-Power Tag, a rival to the Apple AirTag; the Air Glass 2 assisted reality glasses suitable for the hearing impaired; and an OHealth H1 monitor to check your vitals at home. Available on the floor were more foldables like the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2, Honor Magic Vs and Tecno Phantom V Fold, which are not slated for the African market.
And behind a glass box were proof-of-concept rolling screens from Lenovo on a laptop, and its Motorola branded Rizr smartphone. The laptop appears to look its ThinkPad but can transform from 12.7-inches to 15.3-inches at the push of a button. The company said it aims to get between 20,000 to 30,000 rolls from the laptop, which is nowhere near what smartphone folds have been tested against.
Similarly, the Motorola Rizr rolls open from 5-inches to 6.5-inches, and when using certain apps like YouTube in landscape mode, the handset rolls open automatically. Lenovo has not shared further hardware specs for its rollable screens, other than it being in a conceptual stage.
Admittedly, it’s too early to get excited about rolling screens, but on the other hand, foldables have shown promise with each iteration over the years. A space we’re following closely, and if rumors are anything to go by, perhaps we can expect a foldable from Apple in a couple of years.