This is a sponsored article, in association with Honor.
Sometimes it seems that smartphone tech has peaked. Most of this year’s flagship phones will be slightly more powerful versions of last year’s much-hyped models: a few extra megapixels here, a few more megahertz there.
But some firms are daring to think big, to imagine technology that’s much more exciting than a slightly tweaked version of something you can already buy today.
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Take Honor. It doesn’t just want to make great phones. It wants to change the way we think about phones altogether. Forget smartphones: Honor’s imagining superphones, and it’s already assembled some of the key tech that’ll drive the next generation of digital devices.
Here are five amazing things Honor’s cooking up in its labs.
1. Bionic eyes
No matter how many megapixels you give them, normal smartphone cameras don’t see things like people do. Doubling them up helps — a phone with two lenses can have binocular vision just like we humans have — but they still see the world in 2D. That’s why Honor also uses a technology called structured light.
Structured light is used in 3D scanning. By projecting a pattern onto an object and seeing how that pattern deforms you can create a 3D model of anything: an object, a place or a person.
By combining binocular vision with structured light — and taking advantage of artificial intelligence, which we’ll come to in a moment — Honor is creating bionic eyes: cameras that see in 3D with incredible accuracy and reliability.
That opens up some really interesting possibilities that go way beyond facial recognition, such as gesture control and other 3D interactions.
2. Incredibly clever cameras
Wouldn’t it be great if your camera knew the difference between a cat and a dog, food and flowers, portraits and paintings? The camera in the Honor View 10 does. It takes the clever camera tech we’ve just discussed and adds artificial intelligence to take photos like the pros do.
We’re not talking about a couple of presets or some photo filters here. The camera app sends real-time data to something called a Neural Network Processing Unit (NPU) to identify what you’re pointing your phone at.
By doing so it can then adjust the colour, contrast, brightness, exposure and other settings to get the best possible photo.
That’s not all. It can change the background in a selfie without losing any image quality, apply a range of real-time lighting effects and even replace your face altogether for some real-time virtual cosplay.
3. Sync play
We’re glad Honor dropped the official name for this: multi-terminal media play sounds much less exciting — and this is pretty exciting.
Sync Play enables multiple devices to play the same music simultaneously, even when they’re far apart — and it adjusts the timing so that each device’s output reaches your ears at the right time.
If you move around, Sync Play adjusts everything accordingly. In effect, it turns the room or building you’re in into a single sound system. It’s something you really need to hear to appreciate just how mind-bogglingly brilliant it is.
4. Babel Fish
You can’t quite stick a Honor View 10 in your ear, but we’re getting close: Honor’s engineers have developed real-time language translation that’s three times faster than previous cutting-edge translation tech, and it works across more than fifty languages already.
Microsoft’s Translator for Android app has been optimised for Honor hardware: its offline mode has the same extraordinary power that other devices can’t get without connecting to the cloud.
5. Neural-Network Processing Units
The one thing all these things have in common is that they require serious processing power. That’s why Honor has developed a dedicated NPU — Neural-Network Processing Unit — to run alongside its already incredibly powerful Kirin 970 chipset.
By running AI functions in hardware rather than software a device such as the Honor View 10 can do extraordinary things, such as run image recognition on photos at a rate of 2,000 per minute.
What we’re seeing here is a shift: first we had phones, then feature phones, then smart phones. And now artificial intelligence is bringing us the superphone: phones that aren’t just smart, but genuinely intelligent. And that’s going to change everything.
Discover more about AI and the future of phones at Honor’s website (opens in new tab).
AI Week is brought to you in association with Honor.