MWC headlined by Lenovo's transparent laptop, Motorola's bendable and Barbie flip phones

AI gains momentum as new products and services unveiled by leading tech companies

Visitors pass the stand of UAE global technology company e& at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The major industry event is focusing on AI-powered innovations. AFP
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The Mobile World Congress, one of the world's biggest technology conventions, continues not to disappoint because, as Barbie creator Ruth Handler said in the recent eponymous film, "ideas live forever".

Indeed, the popular character became one of the headliners at the showpiece in Barcelona, marking a busy first day of new products drawing in the crowds.

From shiny new hardware concepts to the now seemingly contractually obligated new AI offerings, here are the biggest reveals at the 36th MWC (the show was cancelled in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic).

Lenovo's transparent laptop is real

It's straight out of a sci-fi flick, just like Tony Stark's transparent mobiles in the Iron Man films – only this time, it's actually real, in the form of a laptop from Lenovo.

In arguably the MWC's biggest draw, the ThinkBook Transparent, a proof of concept, comes with a borderless, 17.3-inch micro-LED transparent display, a transparent keyboard area and, for good measure, "a seemingly floating footpad design".

And while it seems to function pretty well, the long-rumoured device apparently has two flaws: first, since it's transparent, it's unclear how it'll hold up against light, sunlight in particular.

Second, and maybe more crucially, anyone in front of it can see what's on the display. Not exactly a covert way of handling sensitive or confidential files or media.

It is unclear if or when Lenovo plans to mass-produce the ThinkBook Transparent, much more so when it is to come to the shop shelves – but it's really cool-looking.

Motorola wants you to wear its phone on your wrist

Meanwhile, Lenovo's subsidiary, Motorola, wants you to keep your smartphone content closer to you – by having you wear it on your wrist.

The bendable device, also a concept, is what you'd expect on a smartphone – only that if you wrap it around your wrist, it turns into a 6.9-inch smartwatch.

Motorola designed the unnamed smartphone to have a firm grip to your skin.

Samsung Galaxy Ring puts health on your finger

Health tracking is now widely in the palm of our hands and at the touch of our fingertips but Samsung wants to take it on one of our fingers with the Galaxy Ring.

The device was actually first teased at the Galaxy S24 Unpacked event in San Francisco last month, albeit a really brief one. Now, we have more details.

Basically, the Galaxy Ring is meant to provide sleep and health metrics akin to the Oura Ring and Apple Watch, integrated with Samsung's Galaxy ecosystem and "bringing Samsung’s accumulated innovations to the smallest form for comfortable 24/7 wear", Hon Pak, vice president and head of Samsung Electronics' digital health team, said in a blog post.

Interestingly, last week, it was reported that Apple was developing its own smart ring but, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman, the ring "is just ... an idea".

The Galaxy Rings at the MWC were only prototypes, with a planned release "later this year", according to Samsung, which will undoubtedly link up with developers to shape up its new diminutive gadget. It's also unclear what would happen if you wear multiple rings.

Xiaomi rolls out its first electric car and walks out its updated CyberDog

After being teased as mere images at CES in Las Vegas last month, Xiaomi's first electric vehicle made its highly anticipated debut.

The Xiaomi SU7 looks clean – though in our opinion its front seems like a combination of a Porsche 911 and a Tesla – and uses the Chinese company's self-developed engines and batteries.

Details on the EV were sparse at the MWC. The company, however, has said it is also working on its own autonomous driving technology, which includes road-mapping and obstacle detection.

Xiaomi also unveiled the updated version of its CyberDog. The AI-powered canine can recognise its owner, bust out some dance moves and even perform a backflip. The company did caution that dogs "will be replaced" but according to actual dogs in its video "it's not scary at all".

Infinix E-Color Shift

In the spirit of the YotaPhone from years ago and, in a similar vein, the Nothing phones, Infinix is trying to do more with the rear side of your mobiles than just being a space for an e-ink display or a spot for dancing lights.

While originally unveiled at CES, the E-Color Shift features a back that basically changes its skin, described by the Hong Kong-based company as "by applying different voltages, the electric field within the microstructure changes".

And while it does bring colours into the mix – unlike the bland e-ink of the since-discontinued YotaPhone – it will basically force you to use a transparent phone cover or none at all to enjoy it.

Probably those who will appreciate this aesthetic feature the most are the ones who'll be looking at your Infinix while you use it.

Control a car with your eyes with the Honor Magic 6 Pro

Magic? Obviously, more of the wizardry of AI.

Honor, the former subsidiary of Chinese giant Huawei Technologies, introduced the Magic 6 Pro smartphone at the MWC. As an added bonus, it also unveiled a new feature that will let you control a car – by using your eyes.

The demonstration featured an app that has four commands – start or stop the engine and move backward or forward – and all you have to do is look at that command and AI will do the rest.

Honor also introduced its new AI chatbot, powered by Meta Platforms' Llama2 large language model, but did not disclose when it would release it.

'Flip' out for more of Barbie

Last year's Barbie film did generate a fair amount of hype in the lead-up to its release. HMD Global is going deja vu.

The Finnish company, which revived the once-iconic Nokia brand, announced a partnership with Barbie maker Mattel and teased a line-up of Barbie Flip Phones to be launched "soon".

Apparently, there are four devices to be launched – all pixelated, for now – and we're guessing the colours would represent the popular dollmaker's characters. That would be pink for Barbie and blue for Ken; we're unsure who yellow and grey will represent.

It's unclear if this will be a limited-edition run. So while you're waiting, maybe you can make do with the zillions of Barbie phone cases available to doll up your smartphone.

Updated: February 28, 2024, 11:27 AM