Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Control a Smartphone Via Gestures

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Control a Smartphone Via Gestures

Article excerpt

With close to 80% of the U.S. population carrying a smartphone, the devices have become second-nature for most people.

What's coming, say University of Washington (UW) researchers, is interacting with our devices not just with touchscreens but also via hand gestures. Some smartphones already incorporate 3-D gesture sensing using the phones' cameras, for example, but cameras eat battery power and require a clear view of the user's hands.

In a project called SideSwipe, university engineers have developed a new sensing technology that uses the phone's wireless transmissions to sense nearby gestures, so it works when a device is out of sight in a pocket or bag. The technology, which could easily be built into future smartphones and tablets, will let users "train" their devices to recognize and respond to specific hand gestures nearby.

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"Today's smartphones have many different sensors built in, ranging from cameras to accelerometers and gyroscopes that can track the motion of the phone itself," said professor Matt Reynolds. "We have developed a new type of sensor that uses the reflection of the phone's own wireless transmissions to sense nearby gestures, enabling users to interact with their phones even when they are not holding the phone, looking at the display, or touching the screen."

When a person makes a call, or an app exchanges data with the internet, a phone transmits radio signals to communicate with a cellular base station. When a user's hand moves through space near the phone, the user's body reflects some of the transmitted signal back toward the phone.

The new system uses multiple small antennas to capture the changes in the reflected signal and classify the changes to detect the type of gesture performed. …

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