Answer the imaginary phone - the utimate interface
Written by Mike James
Wednesday, 25 May 2011
Phone handsets and remote controls might become artifacts of a bygone age if we let a new brand of virtual reality into our lives.
Do you know your mobile phone like the back, or better, front of your hand?
If so why bother fishing it out of your pocket or bag or finding it if it happens to be temporarily lost. Why not just pretend that you have it and answer the call by playing "air phone". The idea of using an imaginary phone as an interface has been put into practice by Sean Gustafson and Christian Holz.
A 3D depth camera similar to a Kinect is used to track finger positions as the user presses the imaginary buttons using their palm as the interface surface. The application then interprets the imaginary key presses and transmits them via WiFi to a real mobile phone that carries out the command.
For this type of interface to work the user has to remember the position of the buttons and how to do the basic tasks. What is surprising, or given our mobile use perhaps not, is that users could accurately recall the position of two-thirds of their apps!
It is fairly easy to see that imaginary device interfaces could be extended to other uses. For example, why hunt for the TV remote. Just pretend you have it, press the buttons on you hand and the system will do the rest. In fact you really don't need to actually have the physical remote as the machine can simulate its IR codes perfectly well.
Perhaps this really is the start of a new age when small devices no longer need to exist at all. Just imagine that you have the gadget, use it and let the computer simulate the rest.
Microsoft Research does some interesting work in computational photography and has just released a new version of Image Composition Editor, a tool that can stitch photos together in amazing ways. [ ... ]