Soon, your palm will become an invisible phone

CIOL Bureau
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LONDON: Just imagine this. Your cellphone rings and you just press on your palm to receive or reject the call. Height of imagination, isn't it? But a group of researchers have made this imagination into reality.

Researchers in Germany are now working on a system that would let you perform such actions without even holding the phone — instead you'd tap your palm, and the movements would be interpreted by an "imaginary phone" system that would relay the request to your actual phone, according to 'Technology Review'.


For this to work you'd need two things: 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, says The new Scientist.

Also read: Soon your voice will recharge your cellphone 

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," New Scientist quoted Patrick Baudisch, professor of computer science at the Hasso Plattner Institute in Potsdam, as saying.

Imaginary phone based on 'depth cameras'

This concept of an imaginary phone is based on "depth cameras" — similar to those at the heart of Microsoft's Kinect motion-sensing gaming system — which is used to detect where someone is pressing on their palm. Then, the software interprets finger positions and movements and correlates it to the position of icons on a person's iPhone.


The depth camera they used in their tests is a "time-of-flight" device that flashes an invisible infrared pattern on the scene and which uses ultrafast receiver circuitry to time how long it takes the light bathing different parts of the scene to be returned to a sensor, said 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'."

At this stage, 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, said New Scientist.


In a study that has been submitted to the User Interface Software and Technology conference in October, the researchers found that participants could accurately recall the position of about two-thirds of their iPhone apps on a blank phone and with similar accuracy on their palm, according to Technology Review. The position of apps used more frequently was recalled with up to 80 per cent accuracy.

Gustafson's research is not limited to cellphone only. Now he is working out how a TV remote control could be replaced by an imaginary zapper, said the report.

The great idea is somewhat reminiscent of the 'SixthSense' developed by Pranav Mistry.