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Information Overload: Interface allows control with a kick

Sept. 17, 2011 at 4:17 a.m.
Updated Sept. 18, 2011 at 4:18 a.m.


By C.J. Castillo

My smartphone is a very useful tool I use on a daily basis, but it's not without its frustrations. At times I've had the urge to throw my phone out the window of my car when the GPS function has me driving in the Atlantic, or do a drop-kick to it, à la Chuck Norris, after a particularly bad score on Words with Friends.

What if those kicks could actually be used to control your phone?

Researchers at the University of Bristol in the U.K. and the University of Manitoba in Canada are working on an interface which would allow you to operate a smartphone using kicking gestures.

Researchers connected an Xbox Kinect camera and then used computer vision algorithms to calculate the foot gesture information. This type of interface would allow for users use the direction and velocity of kicking to scroll or navigate through menus. You have to actually hold the phone in your hand. You don't actually kick it, just to clarify.

When would such an interface be useful?

According to the researchers, this type of touchless interaction would come in handy (see what I did there?) when a user is not able to use his hands. For example, in cold weather when wearing gloves or if someone is working, like a farmer, who doesn't want to dirty up their phone, this interface would be of benefit.

Before you Chuck Norris your iPhone, please be aware that this research is still in development. However, perhaps one day, with just the kick of a leg, you may be able to choose menus and navigate maps on your smartphone.

CJ Castillo writes about geeky stuff for the Victoria Advocate. You can contact her at cjcastillo@vicad.com. Please send all correspondence c/o Victoria Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.

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