The Empathy concept phone is a brainchild of a project RIM sponsored at the Art Center College of Design. The design of the phone is pretty slick if RIM could pull something like that off but I would never want to drop it… On the other hand the concept behind the phone is really odd. The idea is that it is supposed to “detect emotional data” through some magic ring and show both your emotions and your contacts and social graph.
Here is how the designers Kiki Tang and Daniel Yoon describe the interface:
It is of course touch based and all the user’s connections are shown graphically so you can see who is connected to whom. Each contact has an avatar that is encompassed by two colored rings. The inner colored ring shows the contact’s previous emotional state, and the outer ring represents the contact’s current emotional state. It is important to show the shift in emotions in order to see how an event has affected that contact.
Another important feature that we felt was important was the “Emotional Health Chart”. This chart would monitor the user’s emotional health through an indefinite period of time. One would be able to see how a certain event, or phone call/ message has affected the user. Obviously, if the chart shows someone is always upset, there would be a problem… If permitted, a user would be able to view other user’s charts as well.
The issue I have with the concept is that I have never heard of any smartphone user anywhere saying “I wish my smartphone knew how I felt!” It just seems like a solution looking for a problem. My concept phone for RIM has a 1 week long battery and a does away with spinning hourglasses. On the other hand I really do like the circular context menu. That would be cool on my Torch and much more useful than these useless action menus.
I am not sure what to make of the Empathy but let us know what you think in the comments after you watch the video below or check out more shots and mock ups at Yanko Design.