Imagine, you get a call when your hands are dirty, so would you answer it and get soil on your phones screen? Probably you won’t.
But how about if you can just swipe your finger on your palm to answer the call!
Not possible? It is possible, using technology already available with Kinect, which recognises movements as command for game play. Sean Gustafson, Patrick Baudisch and Christian Holz at the Hasso Plattner Institute at Potsdam University in Germany made it possible in a test.
They argue that for such a thing to happen, all you need is people who know precisely where the apps are on their physical phone and a technology that can sense where they are pressing on their hand so a computer can respond and send commands to your phone, wherever it is.
A report on the technology was published in New scientist.
To find out how well people know their modern touchscreen phones, the Potsdam trio recruited 12 volunteers from among the iPhone users they spotted in their cafeteria and tested how well they knew the position of their favoured apps without their phone.
“We found 68 per cent of iPhone users can locate the majority of their home screen apps on their hand. This means that iPhone use inadvertently prepares users for the use of an imaginary version,” says Baudisch.
Having established a reasonable chance of successfully finding an app’s position on someone’s palm, they then decided to use “depth cameras”, which are similar to those at the heart of Microsoft’s Kinect motion-sensing gaming system to detect where someone is pressing on their palm.
In their tests, the depth camera was a clunky head mounted device. “But ultimately, we envision the camera becoming so small that it integrates into clothing, such as the button of a shirt, a brooch, or a pendant. So people would not even notice if someone carries an imaginary phone,” Baudisch told New Scientist.
“We envision that users will initially use imaginary phones as a shortcut to operate the physical phones in their pockets. As users get more experienced, it might even become possible to leave the device at home and spend the day ‘all-imaginary’.”
Answering calls on the phone would still require the physical device but it would be possible to access apps and forward calls to voicemail with the imaginary version.
Gustafson is now also working out how a TV remote control could be replaced by an imaginary zapper. The team hope to present their work at a conference on user interfaces later this year.
“For quite simple interactions this is probably going to work well,” said Nick Bryan-Kinns of Queen Mary, University of London. “But for more complicated functions it’s difficult to know how you’d do it without using audio feedback from the device, telling you which function you’ve activated.”