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Cellphones Input Devices

Sloshing Cellphones Reveal Their Contents 160

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the because-you-can dept.
holy_calamity writes "UK researchers have developed software that represents a handset's battery life by using a phone's speaker and vibrator to make a device feel and sound like it contains liquid. You give it a shake to find out how much is left. The same technique can be used to represent new messages by simulating balls rattling around inside a box. It runs on recent Nokias with accelerometers; video from the researchers explains it well." What a bizarrely fun idea.
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Sloshing Cellphones Reveal Their Contents

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  • that's just stupid (Score:2, Insightful)

    by yagu (721525) * <[moc.liamg] [ta] [ugayay]> on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @09:32AM (#21504181) Journal

    Even the best battery "life" indicators I've ever seen mostly suck. If this one uses the dropoff in voltage as a detection device like every other one has for the last brazillion years, it'll basically be completely full for the life of the charge, and about 10 minutes before it tanks, if you're lucky, you'll get the joy of the sensation of a sloshing, albeit mostly empty sloshing, in your digital device.

    Now, as for the detecting how many messages there are by simulating the sound of balls rattling around in a box, it's kind of cute, as long as they're not my balls. Again, though, if you already have the device out, why not put a little numeric in the display? Huh?

  • I wonder (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DeeQ (1194763) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @09:49AM (#21504365)
    How much faster the battery runs out with this feature. Its always annoyed me that my phone beeps every min when the battery becomes low. I thought the idea was when the phone starts to run out of power to conserve it to make it last long enough till you could charge it next. Considering how much faster my phone dies with the sound on and beep compaired to when I have the sound off and low bat, i wonder how much juice it takes to shake the thing to check the bat level.
  • Re:Toy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by enjo13 (444114) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @09:53AM (#21504433) Homepage
    It's incredibly useful really.

    The battery indicator on your screen is passive. It just sits there (largely unnoticed) until your critically low on battery and then it beeps at you incessantly. By adding a physical element to the indicator you provide an ongoing battery status (in a very easy to understand metaphor no less) that is much more difficult to ignore.

    It is a very similar concept to the gestures used to control the iPhone. The trend in computing right now is to create interfaces that much more closely mimic physical experience. This has proven to greatly increase our ability to interact in meaningful ways with our machines. This is just another example of that.

    Really it wins on two points: 1) It's a useful piece of tech. and 2) it's an insanely cool hack.
  • A solution to....? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ThreeGigs (239452) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @09:56AM (#21504475)
    I love cool little gimmicky inventions like this.
    Unfortunately, it seems to be a solution that was applied to a problem that didn't need solving.

    Now, perhaps if they linked the sloshing behavior to the amount of milk left in the carton as reported via my networked refrigerator, they'd have me interested.
  • by yagu (721525) * <[moc.liamg] [ta] [ugayay]> on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @09:58AM (#21504487) Journal
    Hmmmm, btw, I apologize for the tone... prolly teeing off after some bad karma with some others (recruiters, actually, sigh)... and am kicking the dog. Sorry... (but, this is, after all, slashdot).

    That said, I appreciate you concede the difficulty of battery life measurement. I'd long since given up on paying too much attention to gauges, and instead pay more attention to keeping backup batteries for devices which have removeable ones (it actually is a large factor in my decision making process whether or not I can swap in a spare battery, proprietary or otherwise.)

    Cheers. :-)

  • Re:Toy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Loke the Dog (1054294) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @10:01AM (#21504531)
    But the problem is that we get more and more screens to look at all the time. Our eyes get all the input, but that means the rest of our senses are just sitting around, basically, which is a waste.

    Its the same with aircraft controls, that have been debated for many years. There are many advantages to making them all electronic, but the problem is that electronics tend to only give information to the user through lights and sounds. Mechanical operation on the other hand gives feel to the controls, which gives the pilot further information.

    Its basically a good thing if designers stop every now and then and ponder "hey, is this information really best delivered through a screen or a sound, or would it be more convenient with shake or vibration". Obviously, this has already happened for cellphones many years ago, but it can be taken much further.

    The real revolution comes when we start wearing gloves that through electrical impulses tickle in hundreds of different ways, but are easily recognized by the brain since it was designed to read input from the hands. Or keyboards that sting a little when you make a possible typo, or mouses that basically allows webpages to have "surfaces" that feel different when you hover over them... The possibilities are endless.
  • Battery life (Score:2, Insightful)

    by zokier (1049754) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @10:10AM (#21504637)
    This would kill battery life of a device, cellphones are already at only few days of usage. Lets just add a gimmicky effect that needs more battery. 'Oh how much do I have battery left? *shake* None, anymore anyways...'
  • Re:Toy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MrNemesis (587188) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @10:14AM (#21504669) Homepage Journal
    I have to wonder though, why bother with a physical interface at all?

    The battery indicator on your screen is passive. It just sits there (largely unnoticed) until your critically low on battery and then it beeps at you incessantly. By adding a physical element to the indicator you provide an ongoing battery status (in a very easy to understand metaphor no less) that is much more difficult to ignore.

    Very good point, but I'm not convinced I'd like to shake my phone to get an indication of power (not that the standard power meter is going anywhere I suppose) but I'd like a passive aural indicator - how about the phone altering the pitch of all of those poloyphonic ringtones as the charge diminishes? Normal ringtone for 100-30% charge, and then increase the pitch delta as charge drops from that. As soon as you get a call or a text, you can immediately hear something's "wrong" with your phone (consider the age-old comedy stalwharts of the broken alarm bell or the out of tune piano), and it'll have the useful side effect of actually improving a large percentage of ghastly ringtones ;)
  • by halfabee (685633) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @10:21AM (#21504763) Homepage

    Not stupid, just different.

    It's all about human interface. You may think it's dumb, but it may be just the thing that helps John Q. Public integrate a device into his lifestyle.

    Remember that:
    1. Technology should serve people.
    2. People are corporeal, not virtual.
    3. "Average" is dumber than you think.
  • by andrewbaldwin (442273) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @10:40AM (#21505039)
    Add in small magnets + coils (or reverse run the accelerometer if it's suitable) and charge the phone from the shaking?

    It's not as if the Slashdot crowd have atrophied wrist muscles after all :-) [runs for cover]
  • Re:Toy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AeroIllini (726211) <aeroillini&gmail,com> on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @03:26PM (#21509211)
    This is just a version 1.0 hack, but I could see lots of different uses for this.

    When you pick up an opened can of soda, do you have to shake it vigorously to figure out how full it is? No... you generally know how heavy a full can is, and how heavy an empty can is. When you pick up the can, the amount of inertia the can has tells you how heavy it is, just in one motion. Our brains rely on this kind of feedback when we handle physical objects. Ever picked up an empty can you thought was full? You end up exaggerating the amount of force needed to pick it up, and more likely than not end up almost throwing it across the room. It certainly surprises you.

    Now imagine that the combination of an accelerometer and some clever programming of an off-center vibrate weight could simulate different weights in an object that doesn't actually change weight. (I don't think that's what the technology in the article does, but it might lead to the new uses I describe.) When you first pick up your phone off the table, if the battery is low, it would simulate an "empty" phone. If the battery was full, it would simulate a "full" phone, and resist movement more. This kind of tactile feedback would be readily used by a great many people, and would give them a better appreciation of battery life. They would know instantly, every time they handled their phone, whether they looked at the screen or not, how much battery it had. This has lots of potential uses. Even if the phone was in your pocket, you would be able to feel the "weight" of the phone as you moved.

    Tactile feedback is a Good Thing (tm). More devices should use it in creative ways however they can. The only drawback I could see is adoption: the phone manufacturers might realize that this would clue the users in on just how awful the battery life of their phones is, and refuse to add it to keep people blissfully using power-hungry phones with crappy battery life.

In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982

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