Computer Scientists at the University of Washington are developing a radar-like system that will allow users to control their wireless devices with hand gestures. The system uses the reflection of radio waves to track hand movements and translate them into commands. Ben Gruber reports.
STORY: In this lab at the University of Washington a smartphone is learning a new trick. Researchers Chen Zao and Matthew Reynolds are testing out a new type of sensor that enables a user to control a mobile phone without ever having to touch it. In the not too distant future, they say a simple hang gesture will be sufficient to switch songs or decline a call while a phone is tucked away in a pocket or bag. The new sensor is called Sideswipe and it uses a smartphone's radio signals much like a plane uses radar. (SOUNDBITE) (English) MATTHEW REYNOLDS, COMPUTER SCIENTISTS, UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON, SAYING: "If you think about a radar on an aircraft or a boat or something like that, in that case you have a transmitter that is sending energy out into the environment and it is being reflected by objects nearby." ...the object in this case, is a users hand, which acts as a mirror reflecting the cell phone signal back towards it's source. Reynolds says that reflected signal can be used as a real time map for the sensor. He says that as the signal flow changes, patterns emerge... (SOUNDBITE) (English) MATTHEW REYNOLDS, COMPUTER SCIENTISTS, UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON, SAYING: "And what we do is use a machine learning algorithm to match patterns of the changes due to gestures with previously recorded patterns and when we see a match we say 'oh' a particular gesture has been performed." In a small study, the team showed that their sensor worked with 87 percent accuracy using multiple hand gestures. Reynolds says they are now fine-tuning the technology and hope to team up with smartphone makers to bring gesture recognition out of the lab and into the market.