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Input Devices Cellphones Technology

Using Mobile Phones To Write Messages In Air 65

Anonymous writes "Engineering students at Duke University have taken advantage of the accelerometers in emerging cell phones to create an application that permits users to write short notes in the air with their phone, and have that note automatically sent to an e-mail address. The 'PhonePoint Pen' can be held just like a pen, and words can be written on an imaginary whiteboard. With this application a user could take a picture with a phone camera, and annotating it immediately with a short caption. Duke Computer Engineering Professor Romit Roy Choudhury said that his research group is envisioning mobile phones as just not a communication device, but a much broader platform for social sensing and human-computer interaction. Such interactivity has also emerged in the work of other research groups, such as MIT's Sixth Sense project, Dartmouth's MetroSense project, and Microsoft Research's NeriCell project, to name a few."
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Using Mobile Phones To Write Messages In Air

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 11, 2009 @05:01AM (#28290729)

    :)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 11, 2009 @05:01AM (#28290735)

    Duke students discover double integrator recursive filter.
    News at 11.

  • Reading back? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gadget junkie (618542) <gbponz@libero.it> on Thursday June 11, 2009 @05:04AM (#28290741) Journal
    this does not seem to have big practical use as of now, if only for the fact that if you do not have access to a screen, for reading what you wrote or sketched, it seems to me unusable. On the other hand, if you are at your desk, the mouse does its job quite well, thank you.

    Having said that, it looks like a Wiimote for everyone, and the possibilities are mind boggling. Think of Smart houses, in which by moving your mobile you can raise or lower the air conditioning and such.
    • Re:Reading back? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by syousef (465911) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @06:19AM (#28290995) Journal

      Having said that, it looks like a Wiimote for everyone, and the possibilities are mind boggling. Think of Smart houses, in which by moving your mobile you can raise or lower the air conditioning and such.

      No! No! No! No! and No!

      This is a fantastic geeky little project. Please do not try to make it into something truely practical. It's a gimmick. A new technology needs to improve on the old. I could imagine using this to draw for example, but how does this slow method of entry beat the keypads we currently have on phones? Have you ever seen the speed with which a phone addicted teenage girl texts??? A new technology is only practical and should only be pushed if it actually makes things easier! Compared to a simple keyboard this method is ass.

    • by brunes69 (86786) <slashdot.keirstead@org> on Thursday June 11, 2009 @06:25AM (#28291019) Homepage

      What we need, after this, is mobile phones with screens as well!

      That would be so useful....

    • by Archades54 (925582) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @06:33AM (#28291051)

      Till you get annoyed at the thing and peg it at a wall.(It kept turning off:( )

    • Re:Reading back? (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 11, 2009 @06:51AM (#28291117)

      It would be nice to have this available to sign for packages, I hate those tiny screens they have you try put some resemblance of your signature on.

    • Re:Reading back? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by rolfwind (528248) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @07:38AM (#28291311)

      Think of Smart houses, in which by moving your mobile you can raise or lower the air conditioning and such.

      I'm sorry, but I would not want something as expensive as airconditioning controlled by a few flicks of the wrist on some phone. Most anything I have seen from smart houses I would not want in my home. Old-fashioned mechanical switches were 1000x more reliable than any digital switch I ever had, and any convenience or imagined savings went out the door when the digital switches, easily 10x more expensive, inevitably broke down 10x sooner. I still shudder to think about the ceiling fans that had impossible to find propietary wall switches.

      Programmable thermostats, photoelectric sensors, and timers is where I draw line. They're also about the only items that need regular replacement, can't imagine what an entire smart house would cost, probably much more just in idle electrical cost like the rest of the always-on gadgets of today let alone maintenance.

      Until houses are built truly smart [wikipedia.org] that promise real savings I'm not sure what so smart about these gadget homes.

      • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Thursday June 11, 2009 @02:03PM (#28297121) Homepage Journal

        Most anything I have seen from smart houses I would not want in my home. Old-fashioned mechanical switches were 1000x more reliable than any digital switch I ever had

        Old-fashioned mechanical switches went mercury a long time ago because switch points were a potential source of fire.

        The ideal situation to me is like that with typical automotive power door locks. There's a manual control which can be shifted by an automatic one. For instance you could have some of those large, "decorative"-type switches with two smallish solenoids behind it, to replace a switch. The thermostat can be a metallic strip type (I've seen about as many of those fail as electronic types, but I'll let that pass for now) and the adjustment can be carried out through an electrical system, perhaps a small motor with a worm gear. Water temperature is controlled by an automatic proportioning valve, whose position can be set manually, or by an actuator.

        Until houses are built truly smart that promise real savings I'm not sure what so smart about these gadget homes.

        How ironic that the house you link to is constructed without understanding passive solar techniques. They could do away with the low-e glass if they just extended the overhang at the proper angle/relationship to the structure, so long as the house is oriented in the proper direction, and they would have less problems with insolation when they don't want it, and just as much insolation when they do.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 11, 2009 @05:10AM (#28290761)

    Instead of using the g-sensor in the phone, put a g-sensor and a small RF unit in a small stylus.
    Then you can write on a piece of paper or the table/wall while seeing the text appear on the screen of your mobile phone in the other hand.

    Always interested in business ideas - eigentluk at gmail.com

    • by Fred_A (10934) <fred@fredshom e . o rg> on Thursday June 11, 2009 @07:41AM (#28291329) Homepage

      Instead of using the g-sensor in the phone, put a g-sensor and a small RF unit in a small stylus.
      Then you can write on a piece of paper or the table/wall while seeing the text appear on the screen of your mobile phone in the other hand.

      Or you could use, I don't know, a special kind of paper that would display the writing of the stylus in real time and store it. Made compact enough this would be awesome for note taking on the go.
      I can't believe nobody thought of it before.
      You wouldn't even need a cell phone to use it ! Think of the possibilities !

  • Woohoo (Score:-1, Flamebait)

    by uiuyhn8i8 (1547077) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @05:17AM (#28290779)

    This just in. Another pointless application for cellphones and a university professors clueless search for grant money.

    Read my lips. Just because something is technologically possible doesn't mean anyone is interested in it.

    Please. Stop.

  • Hmmm (Score:5, Funny)

    by Zouden (232738) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @05:18AM (#28290787)

    "an application that permits users to write short notes in the air with their phone, and have that note automatically sent to an e-mail address."

    My god! They've invented text messaging from a phone, but... worse.

  • by Cyberllama (113628) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @05:26AM (#28290817)

    Not really that original, there as an iphone app for this on the App store about a week after the app store opened. That was, what, almost a year ago?

    • by Ren Hoak (1217024) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @07:16AM (#28291217)
      About three years ago I was in Korea, contracting at a mobile phone manufacturer for a while. Their latest phone (Pantech... I can't recall the model number but it was destined for the Russian market) had an accelerometer and they had experimental software to allow you to dial by "Drawing" your numbers in the air. It definitely looked silly to see someone using this, as you had to draw fairly large numbers to make it work, but it worked.
  • by rastoboy29 (807168) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @05:39AM (#28290855) Homepage
    I can always tell how clever an idea is by the amount of instant envy I feel for not having thought of it first. ;-)  But seriously, for somebody like me with *large* handwriting, writing in the air would be way easier than scrawling along on a little phone screen.

    I can't wait to try it out.  Sure seems obvious in restrospect (another sign of a brilliant idea).
  • Welcome to 2004 (Score:-1, Flamebait)

    by psergiu (67614) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @05:40AM (#28290861)

    2004 called and wants it's Nokia 3220 [bbc.co.uk] back.

    • Re:Welcome to 2004 (Score:3, Insightful)

      by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @05:49AM (#28290897)
      Fail.

      This is an app which uses the accelerometer in the iPhone and handwriting recognition to create notes on the phone itself. Nothing to do with writing letters in the air which are visible to other people.

      I know this is slashdot, but you are expected to RTF'ing stub at least.
      • by IBBoard (1128019) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @06:18AM (#28290993) Homepage

        The story title doesn't help. I was expecting exactly that kind of functionality - some mobile phone with a large screen (like the iPhone and other touch-screen devices where the screen is most of the front of the phone) that could write in mid-air as you waved it side-to-side by using the accelerometer to determine where it was and what part it needed to display.

        It'd have been a more interesting use if it was that, rather than making you wave your hand around like an idiot to show "we can get input from accelerometers and combine the values to draw lines".

        • by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @07:55AM (#28291401)
          The only reason that you need to make such large gestures is because current accelerometer technology (consumer grade, at least) isn't accurate enough to pick up the changes from making smaller gestures. Once the accuracy is improved, the app shouldn't need much more tuning.

          Having read the story on The Register yesterday [theregister.co.uk] I can tell you that they are working on improving accuracy, and also improving recognition of full words (instead of one letter at a time, brief pauses in between) and possibly cursive text soon.
          • by IBBoard (1128019) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @09:57AM (#28292965) Homepage

            And if you don't make the movements that big then you're relying on people's perception of where they've moved the thing without them having instant feedback as to what they did, and most people's perception of their movement of a pen (with feedback) is a hell of a lot more accurate of their perception of the relative position they moved a lump of plastic in the air. Even if you alter it and do it on a surface (so doing it horizontally and making it effectively like a mouse) you're just going to end up scratching it or having the same "not quite the right place" effect that a lot of users get.

            Use a pen or similar for your interface and you get instant feedback of what you just did. Start moving the phone around and either a) your accelerometers are so accurate that you're forever triggering the wrong input or b) they're accurate enough but you can't be sure what you wrote because your only feedback (the screen) is moving as well.

            But hey, without ways of making people look silly while inputting data, where would we get our ideas for SciFi?

    • by Dan541 (1032000) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @08:06AM (#28291477) Homepage

      Why is this modded down?

      Oh.... I see... Apple fanbois!!!!

      Seriously where the fuck do these iPhone pricks come from?

      /. is supposed to be about technology, so how does a phone lacking standard features gain such a cult following?

  • by rhakka (224319) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @05:42AM (#28290867)

    I keep hearing that "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic".

    And, we keep getting closer and closer to having "magic wands".

    In a few years we'll all be wandering around waving our hands wildly and murmuring gibberish, and yes, we will all be wizards.

    • by rumith (983060) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @06:04AM (#28290941)
      Once upon a time many centuries ago...

      Merlin (shaking and waving his wand with no obvious result): What do you mean my account has been suspended?
      A magic hand appears out of thin air and points to something on the huge stone nearby.
      Merlin: Damned fine print, damned greedy telcos. I should have bought an unlocked one.
  • by eclectro (227083) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @05:47AM (#28290889)

    Boy, I bet that would go over well in a movie theater.

  • by Chrisq (894406) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @05:59AM (#28290923)
    It would probably allow Italians to have two conversations at once.
  • H2G2 (Score:1, Insightful)

    by s1lverl0rd (1382241) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @06:09AM (#28290959) Homepage

    For years radios had been operated by means of pressing buttons and turning dials; then as the technology became more sophisticated the controls were made touch-sensitive--you merely had to brush the panels with your fingers; now all you had to do was wave your hand in the general direction of the components and hope. It saved a lot of muscular expenditure, of course, but meant that you had to sit infuriatingly still if you wanted to keep listening to the same program.

    -- Douglas Adams

  • by mako1138 (837520) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @06:23AM (#28291009)

    From the headline I expected this to be about some persistence of vision [ladyada.net] application. Now that would be cool. Just imagine people waving their cellphones at each other.

  • by YourExperiment (1081089) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @06:44AM (#28291095)

    permits users to write short notes in the air with their phone

    Sort of like a touch-screen, but far more effort?

    a user could take a picture with a phone camera, and annote it immediately with a short caption

    Sort of like a touch-screen, but far more effort?

    If only someone would invent a phone that had both an accelerometer and a touch-screen. They could make a fortune!

  • Checklist (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dan East (318230) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @06:49AM (#28291107) Homepage Journal

    Novel: Check
    Excellent thesis topic: Check
    Accolades from fellow CS geeks: Check
    Impressive on resume: Check
    Realistically useful: Uncheck

    • Re:Checklist (Score:3, Insightful)

      by that IT girl (864406) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @07:22AM (#28291233) Journal
      Agreed... I don't know about the rest of you, but I type much, much faster than I write. Even on my phone, texting with T9 (no QWERTY keyboard on my phone, ya sissies) I can tap out a message much more quickly and tirelessly than waving my phone around for ages.
      Also, I could see this having huge problems. Even on the Nintendo DS, where the stylus actually touches the screen, it doesn't recognise the way I write a few letters and numbers. I would think the margin for error is even worse in the air, when you can't actually see what you've written. Nice idea, but likely just frustrating in the end.
  • Oops! (Score:3, Funny)

    by qpawn (1507885) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @06:52AM (#28291121)

    The best part is you can flip the device over when you make a mistake and pretend to pour Wite-Out®.

  • by dontPanik (1296779) <ndeselms@@@gmail...com> on Thursday June 11, 2009 @07:22AM (#28291239)
    So the MIT sixth sense project, how does the program know what it's looking at?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 11, 2009 @07:52AM (#28291379)

    All the written messages will be GPS locked to the real positions they were written at.
    And a new addition is glasses that can see the messages.

    A whole new arena for graffiti has been opened.

    Or a whole new avenue for penis spamming.

  • by Orlando (12257) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @07:57AM (#28291411) Homepage

    By all means use this to record sensitive information, I'll just make sure I'll be near you when you're doing it to read whatever it is you're writing.

    An interesting toy, but I see absolutely no realistic widespread uses of this what so ever.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 11, 2009 @07:57AM (#28291419)

    For my undergraduate dissertation I did a similar project using the Wii remote and shape recognition, and I have to give them credit, their implementation of shape recognition is better than mine, however they have been felled by the same flaw as me in that accelerometers cannot determine rotation.

    For my gesture/shape recognition, the lack of a gyro was less of an issue as I used only raw data to train and recognise movements with no concept of time, however anything that required measurement over time (in my case, emulating mouse movement on a PC) tended to make the mouse cursor dart off to one side of the screen because small rotations in the user's wrist would affect the incoming accelerometer readings (which did not show a difference between a rotation and a change in direction).

    For me, as the designer/developer, I worked around this issue as I learned to make my movements in bursts (holding down a button, making a fast movement, releasing button) in order to control the movement, however this necessary workaround made this part of the project an epic failure. This is also the reason that Wii games don't "imitate" your movements with the remote, because the accelerometers can determine movement, they just cant determine the direction of the movement.

    The conclusion that I drew, and a sentiment reflected by these guys is that for direction-variable acceleration accelerometers alone aren't up to the task, gyros are required.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 11, 2009 @08:16AM (#28291553)

    I always have thought that the future would be just like the Harry Potter world. Everything is going smooth so far.

  • Celphone "real world" fps, except you point your phone at people.

  • by CopaceticOpus (965603) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @09:48AM (#28292811)

    I can just see it now: people standing in public, making ridiculous and distracting swooping motions, so they can post pointless and misspelled updates to twitter. "This lne at coffe shop is 2 long"

  • by BigBlueOx (1201587) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @10:51AM (#28293865)
    Thank God that I have lived to see these days. Today I can buy a phone that let's me "tweet" and "blog" and wave my hands in the air like some demented loon who's conducting an orchestra only he can see. Instead of, you know, being a PHONE.

    In today's world, instead of using my phone to make a phone call, I can wave my phone in the air while holding my bottle of non-water-flavored water as I stand in line to buy non-coffee-flavored coffee. And I can watch pigs glow under UV light. How did I ever survive before?
    • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Thursday June 11, 2009 @02:11PM (#28297303) Homepage Journal

      I bought a Windows Mobile phone (HTC Fuze) which is one of those platforms which definitely makes phone calls seem like an afterthought. You know what? I love it. Maybe not everyone needs to carry a keyboard with them everywhere they go, but I adore the opportunity. Maybe everyone doesn't want their phone to be a navigation system, mp3 player, still and video camera, flash light, instant messenger, web browser, blah blah blah... That's fine. But they're fucking insane.

      Once upon a time, I had a camera in my car "just in case"... but heat murders things in that context. Now, my camera is in my phone. I used to sometimes carry a mp3-playing CD player, too; now I have about fourteen gigabytes free, since I've only bothered to copy four albums onto it. A flash light is still in my glove box, but now it stays there and I'm more likely to actually have it when I need it. The rest of the functionality just sprang up out of nowhere for me, including navigation. Why should I not want this stuff?

      If we haven't blown ourselves up or reverted to feudalism complete with castles and dysentery, in a few generations our descendants (maybe not yours or mine, but anyway) will be consulting the internet via their direct-neural interface and snickering at protestations about one portable device that people are carrying anyway doing too much.

      • by PeanutButterBreath (1224570) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @04:44PM (#28299897)

        If we haven't blown ourselves up or reverted to feudalism complete with castles and dysentery, in a few generations our descendants (maybe not yours or mine, but anyway) will be consulting the internet via their direct-neural interface and snickering at protestations about one portable device that people are carrying anyway doing too much.

        Well, it better be a few generations from now, because I don't take guff from wired-up brains floating in jars full of fancy liquids.

  • by idontgno (624372) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @11:19AM (#28294303) Journal
    threatens to completely change the meaning of "mime" in the context of e-mail.
  • by tech_fixer (1541657) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @02:58PM (#28298093)

    Here's how to make this REALLY functional:
    1. Put the acelerometers inside a pen shaped wedge piece of the phone.
    2. Make it detachable.
    3. Make it wireless (Bluetooth)

    Voila... Pen annotation for phones.

    Hell, you could make this an accessory for existing smartphones...

    Umm, I think I shlould head to a patent lawyer office RIGHT NOW!!!

  • by monkeysdown! (920085) on Friday June 12, 2009 @11:10AM (#28308589)
    at least i won't have to listen.

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