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Using Mobile Phones To Write Messages In Air

samzenpus posted more than 5 years ago | from the invisible-ink-2.0 dept.

Input Devices 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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First note on air (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28290729)

:)

m0d d03n (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28290985)

eat my ass hole fag

This is exciting ! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28290735)

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

Re:This is exciting ! (2, Interesting)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 5 years ago | (#28290865)

My initial reaction was "oh noes! Air graffiti!"...

...until I read how this works. Actually, the idea could be quite udeful for once. Seems to me it should be quite a small step to introduce some sort of OCR into the works to clean it up a bit...

Re:This is exciting ! (3, Funny)

unixan (800014) | more than 5 years ago | (#28293935)

...introduce some sort of OCR into the works to clean it up a bit

Until then, expect your "sent" folder to be full of unexpected messages. Like the following. :)

jvjw~~wwwy

You are a typical person.

)(~!!

You are a teeny bopper.

-x-x-x

You were moonwalk dancing.

%!%!%!

You are no longer horny.

Reading back? (4, Interesting)

gadget junkie (618542) | more than 5 years ago | (#28290741)

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? (5, Insightful)

syousef (465911) | more than 5 years ago | (#28290995)

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.

Re:Reading back? (1)

perryizgr8 (1370173) | more than 5 years ago | (#28291013)

i don't think any new application of any technology should be dismissed as "This is a fantastic geeky little project. Please do not try to make it into something truely practical. It's a gimmick." it quite well maybe a very great new technique, you just can't see it yet.

Re:Reading back? (2, Interesting)

syousef (465911) | more than 5 years ago | (#28291583)

News flash: Writing on an imaginary whiteboard is not as efficient as typing in text.

Did you not even read the part where I said it might be good for drawing?

That's not dismissive. I swear slashdot has gone to the fucking dogs lately. Anything remotely unpopular is shouted down as trolling. Makes Digg look like intelligentsia.

Re:Reading back? (1)

perryizgr8 (1370173) | more than 5 years ago | (#28292621)

yeah, everything's all right but i never said anything about you being a troll. and i think you might want to reconsider your comment comparing digg to /. because it is highly absurd.

Re:Reading back? (0, Offtopic)

Golddess (1361003) | more than 5 years ago | (#28293795)

Have you ever seen the speed with which a phone addicted teenage girl texts???

No, but I seem to recall hearing about a texter being beaten by good old fashioned morse code (and the texter was allowed to use shorthand while the morse code person either wasn't or chose not to).

Re:Reading back? (1)

syousef (465911) | more than 5 years ago | (#28294569)

Yeah sure. Now let's see how quick imaginary whiteboard is?

By the way are you talking about this?
http://www.engadget.com/2005/05/06/morse-code-trumps-sms-in-head-to-head-speed-texting-combat/ [engadget.com]

If so a 13 year old girl with maybe 5 years maximum experience vs someone with around 8 decades of experience is no fair match.

YOu are so right! (1)

brunes69 (86786) | more than 5 years ago | (#28291019)

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

That would be so useful....

Re:Reading back? (1)

Archades54 (925582) | more than 5 years ago | (#28291051)

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

Re:Reading back? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#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? (4, Interesting)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:Reading back? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#28297121)

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.

Here's an idea ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#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

Re:Here's an idea ... (2, Funny)

Fred_A (10934) | more than 5 years ago | (#28291329)

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 (-1, Flamebait)

uiuyhn8i8 (1547077) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:Woohoo (2, Funny)

Dan541 (1032000) | more than 5 years ago | (#28291435)

As if it isn't bad enough with idiots wandering from side to side as they walk down the street. Now they have to frail their arms about too.

Hmmm (4, Funny)

Zouden (232738) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:Hmmm (1)

Cyberllama (113628) | more than 5 years ago | (#28290849)

There was an app for this posted to the app store several months ago. You hold the phone in your hand and just wave it around wildly and spell words out with the persistence of vision effect. While I imagine it might be a neat trick, I've got to wonder how many phones have met their untimely demise after being accidentally thrown this way. I like my phone too much to download this app.

Re:Hmmm (1)

teh kurisu (701097) | more than 5 years ago | (#28290891)

Every phone on the market, with the exception of the iPhone, has an attachment hook that's mainly used these days by teenage girls to attach decorations. You should be able to attach a stock Wiimote strap to your phone without too much trouble... although I wouldn't recommend stress-testing it.

Re:Hmmm (1)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 5 years ago | (#28291111)

The G1 also does not have a strap hole.

Since those are the 2 main phones that have accelerometers right now... Meh.

Re:Hmmm (4, Informative)

teh kurisu (701097) | more than 5 years ago | (#28291131)

Rubbish, there are loads of phones with accelerometers. The Nokia N95 for instance.

Re:Hmmm (1)

jrumney (197329) | more than 5 years ago | (#28304021)

My SE 850i has a strap hole and accelerometers. It's also a much more comfortable size to hold and swing than either of the aforementioned devices.

Re:Hmmm (1)

Dan541 (1032000) | more than 5 years ago | (#28291447)

and what sort of sad person wants to email themselves?

Re:Hmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28293821)

Imagine taking a girl's number down at a bar, you've taken her photo, then she sees you wave your magic wand...
I guess half a number is better than no number at all!

Re:Hmmm (1)

cellurl (906920) | more than 5 years ago | (#28294455)

It may be a new type of palm-esque-anote language. Gestures like a stenographer. Similar to sign language ASL. Would be fun to watch it unfold!

Reminds me of the beer commercial (1)

Julie188 (991243) | more than 5 years ago | (#28296637)

I keep thinking of the guy that is drawing objects in the air that become "real" ... doors and hair dryers and such. OK, this is akin to writing long-hand with the phone (which is so wonderfully efficient that the world invented keyboards), but still ...

Not to criticize (1)

Cyberllama (113628) | more than 5 years ago | (#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?

Re:Not to criticize (1)

Ren Hoak (1217024) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

brilliant (1)

rastoboy29 (807168) | more than 5 years ago | (#28290855)

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).

Re:brilliant (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28290953)

lol, your font is fucked up, even here!

there's only one proper way to communicate, it's on a model m keyboard, like god intended it.

Re:brilliant (1)

perryizgr8 (1370173) | more than 5 years ago | (#28291025)

but why does your font look like CODE?
oh no! he's already posting with this new accelero-board!

Welcome to 2004 (-1, Flamebait)

psergiu (67614) | more than 5 years ago | (#28290861)

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

Re:Welcome to 2004 (2, Insightful)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:Welcome to 2004 (1)

IBBoard (1128019) | more than 5 years ago | (#28290993)

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".

Re:Welcome to 2004 (1)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:Welcome to 2004 (1)

IBBoard (1128019) | more than 5 years ago | (#28292965)

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?

Re:Welcome to 2004 (0, Flamebait)

Dan541 (1032000) | more than 5 years ago | (#28291477)

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?

The Truth of the matter (1)

rhakka (224319) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:The Truth of the matter (2, Funny)

rumith (983060) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Bring it on (1)

eclectro (227083) | more than 5 years ago | (#28290889)

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

It will go down well in Italy (4, Funny)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 5 years ago | (#28290923)

It would probably allow Italians to have two conversations at once.

H2G2 (2, Insightful)

s1lverl0rd (1382241) | more than 5 years ago | (#28290959)

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

persistence of vision (1)

mako1138 (837520) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Touch-screen (1)

YourExperiment (1081089) | more than 5 years ago | (#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 (5, Insightful)

Dan East (318230) | more than 5 years ago | (#28291107)

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

Re:Checklist (2, Insightful)

that IT girl (864406) | more than 5 years ago | (#28291233)

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! (3, Funny)

qpawn (1507885) | more than 5 years ago | (#28291121)

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

Sixth Sense (1)

dontPanik (1296779) | more than 5 years ago | (#28291239)

So the MIT sixth sense project, how does the program know what it's looking at?

I have an idea for V2 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Security issues (1)

Orlando (12257) | more than 5 years ago | (#28291411)

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.

Nightmares re-lived (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Harry Potter? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28291553)

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

Imaginary whiteboard? How about imaginary gun? (1)

aapold (753705) | more than 5 years ago | (#28291819)

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

Making the world an annoying place (1)

CopaceticOpus (965603) | more than 5 years ago | (#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"

Thank God (1)

BigBlueOx (1201587) | more than 5 years ago | (#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?

Re:Thank God (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#28297303)

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.

Re:Thank God (1)

PeanutButterBreath (1224570) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

This startling technological advance... (1)

idontgno (624372) | more than 5 years ago | (#28294303)

threatens to completely change the meaning of "mime" in the context of e-mail.

Just my two cents... (1)

tech_fixer (1541657) | more than 5 years ago | (#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!!!

2 ways to seem crazy (1)

monkeysdown! (920085) | more than 5 years ago | (#28308589)

at least i won't have to listen.
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