Is the bar of soap tomorrow's smarterphone?
By Stuart Turton
Posted on 18 Feb 2009 at 17:13
Researchers at MIT have developed a gadget that knows whether you want to use it as a camera or smartphone, just by the way you're holding it.
In recent years, the convergence of cameras, mobile phones and PDAs has picked up pace, with the iPhone suggesting handheld games consoles might one day join the club.
Unfortunately, the disparate demands of the individual interfaces has remained a barrier to complete convergence.
Engineers from MIT intend to solve this problem by allowing the device itself to work out what you intend. So, if you hold the device, dubbed the Bar of Soap, out in front of you like a camera it will automatically bring up an LCD viewfinder. However, if you then switch to holding it as you would a mobile phone, it will bring up a touchscreen keypad instead.
The Bar of Soap utilises a three-axis
accelerometer and 72 surface sensors to track the position of the user's fingers and its position. The team trialled it with 13 users who were asked to hold the gadget as they would a phone, PDA, camera, remote control and gamepad.
By monitoring this data they discovered patterns in finger pressure, which allowed them to "teach" the Bar of Soap what each of these grips meant and what was expected of it.
However this method does have its downside. Because of the varying ways people hold devices, it's only accurate 70% of the time, though this figure hits 90% if the Bar of Soap is trained with a specific user.
Though only a very early prototype, the device represents an interesting take on how we might interact with our gizmos in the future.
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