May 23, 2011, 2:15 PM — Aside from problems with cost, security, bandwidth, bandwidth caps, access charges, battery lives, weight, privacy, size, visibility, Flash compatibility and a couple of other issues, finding a lot cell phone is the biggest problem many people have.
A team of engineers at Hasso Plattner Institute at Potsdam University in Germany is trying to address that by creating a remote control that lets you operate your phone by poking your own hand, without having to find the phone before you remotely answer it (never mind that ringing the phone is the most common way to find the damn thing in the first place).
Rather than push buttons on the phone, you push them on your hand – or your memory of where each icon is on the smartphone screen, represented on your hand.
A special depth camera that is currently a giant, ineffective head-mounted monstrosity, watches your finger and matches the spot you touch with the correct icon, and sends that command to the phone.
"Ultimately, we envision the camera becoming so small that it integrates into clothing, such as the button of a shirt, a brooch, or a pendant. So people would not even notice if someone carries an imaginary phone," according to team member Patrick Baudisch.
The experiment – which may become a product some day, though there's no direct threat of that now – is part of an effort to remove the barrier of the interface from computing. Not having to put a keyboard or display on a phone saves a lot of space and a lot of weight – even if they only have to be put somewhere else, like in a head-mounted display – and then made to work effectively together.
Assuming the iImaginary interface works, you'd have to carry in your clothing a camera tiny enough to not get in your way, but large enough to not lose or leave at home, which would force you to control your phone the ancient, unfashionable way by just touching it.
At least for the first-generation use case of controlling an iPhone you can't touch, that seems overly complicated, especially if you get a call walking down the sidewalk and you already have something in your hand.
Like, maybe your Zune (whose users are imaginary and would therefore be perfect for this particular application).
Copyright Hasso-Plattner-Institut 2011