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Cellphones GUI Software Technology

Is the Bar of Soap Tomorrow's Smarterphone? 141

Barence writes "Researchers at MIT have developed a gadget that knows whether you want to use it as a camera or smartphone, just by the way you're holding it. So, if you hold the device, dubbed the Bar of Soap, out in front of you like a camera it will automatically bring up an LCD viewfinder. However, if you then switch to holding it as you would a mobile phone, it will bring up a touchscreen keypad instead. The Bar of Soap utilises a three-axis accelerometer and 72 surface sensors to track the position of the user's fingers and its position."
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Is the Bar of Soap Tomorrow's Smarterphone?

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  • Great (Score:5, Insightful)

    by clarkkent09 ( 1104833 ) * on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @05:00PM (#26907107)
    I look forward to the day when I wont have to face the arduous task of pressing the camera button when I want to switch to camera mode. And I am sure I won't look like an idiot twisting and shaking my phone back and forth, trying to get the damn camera on (like with iPhone switching portrait/lansdcape mode) because the feature will work flawlessly every time. Sorry, I tend to be in a sarcastic mood early in the morning. Yes, I know it's 1pm.
  • by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @05:02PM (#26907139) Journal

    I can't wait for teen girls & college women to carry their "bar of soap" into the shower, and while washing accidently press the "take picture" and "send" buttons.

    Of course most women do that anyway. They've created a whole new category called "mirror teens".

  • Better (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @05:04PM (#26907159)

    The Bar of Soap utilises a three-axis accelerometer and 72 surface sensors to track the position of the user's fingers and its position."

    And what's the advantage over using a single "surface sensor" (i.e. a button)?

  • what if? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sl0ppy ( 454532 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @05:06PM (#26907201)

    what if i want to take a picture of something in front of me, on my desk, while i am sitting down. i've actually done this a few times, so it's not too much to ask.

    hopefully there will be an easy override button i can press?

    sometimes gadgets try too hard to be "smart", and end up infuriating the end users.

  • Joy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by illegalcortex ( 1007791 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @05:07PM (#26907211)

    Please god, no. I already curse my iPod Touch frequently enough when it decides how to rotate the screen for me. For example, ever try web surfing while lying down? What I wouldn't give for a "lock screen orientation" button.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @05:08PM (#26907233)

    Talk about an utterly subjective and intuitive line of guesswork.
    Some will be obvious 99% of the time, others it'll be random guesswork on the part of the device as it won't know what it's relationship is to the rest of your body and the world. Just imagine trying to take pictures from odd positions. (around the corner, from your purse so he doesn't notice, etc.)

    It will absolutely need a manual override or there are going to be a lot of strange mistakes.

  • And what about... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thesolo ( 131008 ) * <> on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @05:12PM (#26907323) Homepage
    If you want or need to take a picture/video discreetly? Now you're stuck holding it way out in front of you, giving away the fact that you're filming/taking photos?

    I've snapped photos and video before by keeping the phone up against my ear like I was on the phone, but aiming the lens at the subject and tapping the button on the side of the phone. I know other people have done the same to film their local police using a taser on someone. If the cops know you're filming, they're likely to try to take your cell.
  • by reality-bytes ( 119275 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @05:15PM (#26907361) Homepage
    Okay, so not epic fail, but a bit of a potential fail if they manage to come up with yet another phone which despite having a really cool feature where it can change modes just due to it's orientation.... it still takes a bloody eternity to switch modes.

    Perhaps I'm the only one. Perhaps everybody else's phone can go from dial-a-pizza to 6-gigapixel with motion-stabilisation in 0.001 seconds but every handset I've tried has something between an annoying and an interminable wait before the thing actually starts functioning like something approximating a camera.

    If I really cared about taking reasonable quality photos on the spur of the moment, I think I'd still carry a dedicated digital camera.
  • Re:Great (Score:4, Insightful)

    by camperdave ( 969942 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @05:49PM (#26907873) Journal
    i have heard that accelerometors are only about $2-3 in volume so they are cheap.

    So, only about a thousand times as expensive as a switch, then?
  • Re:Great (Score:2, Insightful)

    by nautsch ( 1186995 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @05:53PM (#26907945)
    Hmm. I still hope, that people will get that megapixels are NOT an indicator for the quality of the picture.
  • Re:what if? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hobbit ( 5915 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @06:09PM (#26908297)

    Quite. Not to mention that if you ask a teenager to mime "taking a picture", they'll probably mime holding an object in portrait orientation and pressing a button on the side nearest them. Whereas twenty/thirtysomethings will probably mime pressing a button on the top of something in landscape orientation, and forty-and-up-somethings will probably mime holding something up to their eye.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @06:18PM (#26908445)
    true. monday I've tried to take e photo of an ambulance cutting. traffic over some rails running along the road and failed due to Corners startup time
  • by zullnero ( 833754 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @06:23PM (#26908555) Homepage
    Quite a few that are in production or are set to be released utilize almost the exact same technology to reorient their screens and do a whole lot of other things. It doesn't take much to use that same accelerometers to do the exact same things that the article is talking about. The reason a lot of companies haven't gone quite as far as these researchers have is because enabling that by default is kind of a nuisance in practice. But it wouldn't be a bad option for some if they were used to it and wanted to minimize button/tapping/navigational interaction.
  • Re:Great (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Pentium100 ( 1240090 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @06:36PM (#26908767)

    Megapixels are an indicator of quality, just not the main or single one.

    The quality of the lens and sensor, also the size of the sensor also matters as much as (or more than) the megapixel count, but still, if a camera had a perfect lens and a 75mm sensor, but a resolution of only 320x240, it may actually do worse than a cameraphone with it's tiny sensor and a below average lens but 5mpx... Shooting in low light would be a different matter...

  • Re:Great (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Pentium100 ( 1240090 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @07:34PM (#26909641)

    That is true, but sometimes (at least I) take photos that would have no "artistic" value, but only for informational purposes, for example taking a photo of a page of text (using a phone as a scanner), the requirement here is that the text is readable, which depends a lot on technical properties of the phone (one phone I had couldn't take a clear picture of text, either the page is too close (out of focus) or it is too far away (too few pixels per character)).

    And yes, a cameraphone will never be as good as a DSLR camera, but I have trouble putting a DSLR camera in my pocket... Also video cameras with photo capability are better than phones, for example my Handycam DCR-HC90E takes 3mpx photos that are way better than the 3mpx photos my Nokia N93 takes. On the other hand the N93 fits in my pocket, while the Handycam does not.

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