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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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  • by CheShACat (999169) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @10:34AM (#21504197) Homepage Journal
    All true, but you can't deny that this is a pretty cool tactile feedback mechanism! More of these great ideas please!
  • Toy (Score:4, Interesting)

    by peipas (809350) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @10:37AM (#21504229)
    It sounds fun, but I don't understand how shaking a phone is functionally superior to simply looking at the screen to gauge battery life or messages. Not to mention shaking your expensive mobile device around may not be the smartest idea. Flying wiimotes, anyone?
  • Re:Toy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Scutter (18425) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @10:45AM (#21504333) Journal
    It sounds fun, but I don't understand how shaking a phone is functionally superior to simply looking at the screen to gauge battery life or messages.

    You're new here, aren't you?

    Show me anything in the world that a geek won't want to tinker with and hack in odd ways. It's this kind of thing that will eventually lead to Star Trek tech. It takes a hundred or a thousand "useless little hacks" to filter out the one gem that will be the killer hack. And sometimes, you can take a piece of one useless hack and a piece of another useless hack and put them together to make something awesome.

    Yes, this may not be the most useful modification in the world, but think of what it could lead to...
  • by Steve Newall (24926) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @10:48AM (#21504359)
    As a manufacturer of portable data terminals, we always seem to spend an excessive amount of time in attempting to get a better indication of the amount of power left in a battery. Each battery chemistry has it's own set of rules and the rules tend to change as the battery ages.

    One of the better methods is to use a coulumb counter that attempts to measure the power put into a battery against the power removed from the battery. See http://www.linear.com/pc/productDetail.jsp?navId=H0,C1,C1003,C1037,C1134,P2354 [linear.com] for a typical device. Even using these, we only seem to be able to approach something that doesn't suck.

    One of our devices has a tilt sensor, so I may try to impliment the sloshing sound as well as our normal battery icon on the display.

  • by SnoopJeDi (859765) <snoopjedi@gmail.c3.1415926om minus pi> on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @10:51AM (#21504411)

    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.


    Don't hate the player, hate the game.

    This implementation in-and-of-itself does not really signify any important breakthrough to me. Just a bunch of geeks who took a feature and put a software aspect to it for a unique function. However, this is the second cell-phone shakey [slashdot.org] article I've seen on Slashdot recently. So, what really matters to me is the meta-content here: adding an accelerometer to a cellphone opens up a lot of functionality on the mobile platform.
  • by dada21 (163177) <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @11:12AM (#21504651) Homepage Journal
    Thanks to the mini-USB connector on my phone, battery life is completely not important to me. In the car, I charge my phone. At work or at a client's, I plug it into a laptop or PC. If I am desperate, I have a little USB hand crank that can power my phone for 20 minutes with about 3 minutes of cranking.

    When cell phones had proprietary connectors that changed with each new model, battery life was maybe #3 on my list of important features. Now I don't even think of it. I can not recall a day in the past year when I had less than 60% battery life (even with WiFi and Bluetooth enabled on my HTC Trinity).

    Is it really a big deal for a lot of people? Where are you that you can't plug in, even if just for 10-15 minutes to top off your battery?
  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @11:24AM (#21504801) Homepage
    While this is very cool, it does bring up a pet peeve of mine: why can't devices show accurate battery life?

    Currently, all battery charge indicators are wildly nonlinear and grossly inaccurate.

    To be more specific. Conceptually, imagine a device that holds three small batteries instead of one large one, and drains them in succession one after the other. The battery life measurement on each battery would be somewhat imprecise, but when you'd exhausted the first battery you'd know that you really had 2/3 of the charge left; when you'd exhausted the second, you'd know that you really had 1/3 left.

    Alternatively, how about a device that holds two smaller batteries and double-buffers them; that is, draws from one battery until it's exhausted, then draws from the second while allowing you to replace the first?

  • Ha! I love it! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jollyreaper (513215) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @11:27AM (#21504833)
    Most of our computer humor comes from people trying to apply inappropriate models to understanding the way computers work, thinking they're like cars or household appliances. I've had people ask me if computers need tune-ups, belts changed, etc. And us techs can be dicks about it, too. "Yeah, you dropped that CD and now all the bits shifted to one side. It's going to be unbalanced, like a washing machine. So what you need to do is shake the CD until all the bits get evenly distributed."

    Shaking the battery to hear how "full" it is, it's an intuitive approach for someone who knows nothing about technology and makes the geeks laugh, but here they go and make it work. Very, very funny. But this is the sort of thinking that helps make the toys easier to use. More power to 'em.
  • by EgoWumpus (638704) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @11:38AM (#21504981)

    I have to imagine that any blind user of a cell phone would think this is awesome. No longer do you have to wade through some exchange with a computer to figure out if you have messages; you just shake your cell phone. And figuring out your charge without any need for visual interaction must be useful, too.

    Additionally, though, I don't think there is all that much problem with shaking solid-state electronics. The 'Wiimote syndrome' isn't at issue, because you're not trying to control cartoon characters on the screen - and shaking a rattle, say, is a far more sedate activity than swinging a hammer. Unless you're way, way hyper-aggressive.

  • Neat for the blind (Score:5, Interesting)

    by lantastik (877247) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @11:54AM (#21505279)
    My sister-in-law is legally blind and she is always asking how much battery life is left on her phone and how many messages she has. From an accessibility perspective, I think it's a pretty neat idea. Otherwise, it's a useless feature.

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