Projecting the Future: Cell Phones Go Sci-Fi

As I searched The Korea Times last week, looking for articles relevant to my CORE Korea class, one headline caught my eye: “Samsung Unveils 1st-Ever Projector Phone.”

Putting aside the fact that my experience as a newspaper staff member had me cringing at all the ways this title was aesthetically displeasing, the fragment “projector phone” stuck out to me as a phrase that should never exist. I read the article and determined that this phone is exactly what it sounds like: a cell phone that can project images onto walls.

My immediate thought was of Star Wars. I think the entire viewing audience, spanning years and generations, was in awe the moment that, with some complicated button-pressing maneuver, a hologram of Princess Leia popped up and delivered her plea for help. But everything about Star Wars is futuristic, (despite having happened “a long time ago”) seeming to project far into the future of the Earth, long after all of us have died.

This was disproven as a current impossibility, at least in regard to the hologram, during the last presidential election. On election night, CNN interviewed correspondent Jessica Yellin via hologram. The dream became a reality.

But still, it was an expensive and exclusive reality granted only to those with the budget of a television channel. With the advent of the projector phone, the future goes middle class.

Some people might argue that Samsung’s new phone is not incredibly special. After all, plenty of classrooms have projectors. A boring classroom tool is now also accessible by phone.

But that brings me to my other point. More striking to me than the initial awe of a futuristic-seeming phone is how completely unnecessary such a device is. Who, in his everyday life, actually needs to project images onto walls? For quite a long time now, people have gotten along just fine without this technology. I doubt anyone ever wistfully said, “If only there was a way…”

Since that ancient appliance, the projector, is already readily available for teachers, businesses and movie theaters, what demand is there for a projector phone? As I try to imagine this cell phone in the general public, all I can think of are possible disasters. Gossip Girl-esque cruelty could gain a visual aid. Don’t even bother to forward that tiny, pixel-y image to the entire school. Just use your phone’s projector capabilities in a prominent area to get your message across loud and clear. You might even shave off a millisecond conveying it.

Class distractions could escalate. Sure, maybe at first no one would ever think of using their projector phone during a lecture. But, initially, people didn’t dare to leave cell phones on in class, text under their desks or check their email on their Blackberries, either. How long will it take for classroom walls to be filled with rectangular screens, as if each student carried around a thought bubble?

I think Samsung’s new projector phone is a prime example of how something can be “new and improved,” and still be

stupid. Yes, it’s impressive that we are one step closer to realizing the Star Wars dream that has wished us off to sleep since Episode IV.

But until there is a high demand for spacecrafts, I think a cell phone like mine does the job just fine. Not only does it send and receive calls, it has texting and camera capabilities as well. There’s even an internet button that I’m afraid to touch. My thoughts are transparent enough without me translating them into fragments of light.