Our gadgets have advanced at an unprecedented rate in recent years, and yet, fundamental limitations with the way we use them remain. Plugging in a cable, switching between profiles as you move from one device to another, and attempting to recall a file you stashed away are some of the clunky tasks we still deal with today. And these headaches have only been amplified in the shift to working from home, where product ecosystems are often more disjointed than in the office.
Dell, in an attempt to streamline how we interact with our gadgets, took the wraps off three new concepts: Concept Flow, Concept Pari, and Concept Stanza. Each aims to resolve a specific limitation with current work environments with the combined goal of making it effortless for users to switch between devices. These aren’t revolutionary concepts, but when put into practice, they could save time and reduce stress.
Less concrete in form than the others, Concept Flow is Dell’s vision of using modern wireless standards, like Wi-Fi 6e and Bluetooth, to interconnect various devices so you can get right to work (or play) the moment you sit down.
What exactly does this look like? Imagine you walk into your home office and your laptop wirelessly connects to your monitor without you having to place it down and open the screen, and when you sit down, your wireless mouse and keyboard are already ready to go. When you put the laptop down on your desk, it starts charging, no cords required. When you’re finished with work, proximity sensors detect when you’ve left the office and do all the shutting down automatically. In this scenario, lifting your laptop’s lid, fiddling with cords, and pressing a power button become things of the past.
Some of the core technologies Dell describes already exist in mainstream products. Lenovo and Dell’s own business laptops come with proximity sensor software to dim the screen when you look away or put the laptop to sleep when you walk out of the room. Turning back to Dell’s rival, Lenovo already makes a wireless laptop charger of sorts, though Dell envisions this to be better integrated into your workspace. In this case, built into a table. It all sounds convenient, and I’m eager to see how it works together and how Dell overcomes potential platform compatibility barriers.
The above may sound theoretical, but Dell has already started paving the road. It starts with Concept Pari, a wireless webcam that can be moved from one room to the next, or from a monitor to a stand, so you can aim the lens at mockups, prototypes, or whatever else you want to share with the video attendees.
Weighing less than one ounce, Pari is a miniature device that connects to different surfaces via a magnet on the rear. Built into Pari are a power light, an alignment indicator, and an integrated USB-C dock for wireless charging.
Dell cites some niche business uses, but I see a wider appeal with everyday consumers—I’m tired of hauling around my Logitech C920, and laptops (sorry Dell, yours included) have terrible integrated webcams. Upgrading built-in webcams to a minimum 1080p resolution should be a priority for all laptop makers, and until that happens, something like this wireless version could serve as an alternative, especially if the thin display bezels on today’s laptops don’t allow for a decent camera.
I could see myself throwing this into the smallest sleeve in my backpack and taking it to conferences, in-person briefings, or while I’m traveling. I also think this webcam could find itself in classrooms so teachers can show documents, experiments, or a whiteboard without wasting valuable lesson time.
Touchscreens are ubiquitous, giving us the ability to take notes by hand. But getting those notes from one device to another isn’t always straightforward. With Concept Stanza, Dell attempts to simplify the note-taking process using an 11-inch PC “companion device.” Close in form to a tablet, Stanza gives you a large canvas to draw or take notes, and turns your handwriting into text with a double-tap.
In a demo, Dell showed how your scribble instantly appears on a nearby PC the moment Stanza is placed on its wireless dock. The ability to pull up your notes on any device without much effort could put an end to emailing files to yourself or grabbing them from the cloud.
Having your devices closely integrated will make life easier, but remember, these conveniences already exist to some extent if you’ve committed to Samsung or Apple’s ecosystems. I also question the appeal of a stripped-down device made exclusively for notetaking. This PC companion would need to be priced appropriately to justify its purchase over something like the $250 Lenovo Chromebook Duet.
These are only in their prototype stages, so we don’t know if or when they will arrive, though some of the ideas within these concepts are already on the market in some form. While these aren’t as exciting as Razer’s Project Valerie or as significant as Concept Luna, Dell’s sustainable and repairable laptop vision, sometimes the simple ideas are the ones that make a measurable difference. Even if these modest concepts aren’t the solution, the goal of removing the boundaries that exist between our devices is one we can all get behind as we figure out how office work will look in the future.