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A Phone, or an All-Seeing Sentry at Your Command?


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Surround-See is a smartphone equipped with an omni-directional camera.

Surround-See is a self-contained smartphone equipped with an omni-directional camera that enables peripheral vision around the device to augment daily mobile tasks.

Credit: University of Manitoba

A new form of smartphone interaction could be effected by outfitting the device with peripheral vision though a depth-sensing camera.

With this goal in mind, a research team led by Xing-Dong Yang at the University of Alberta has equipped Kogeto's omnidirectional Dot lens on the front camera of an HTC Butterfly smartphone and programmed an Android app to recognize locations and gestures, for the purpose of monitoring activity and tracking objects in the user's surroundings.

The app/lens combination, dubbed Surround-See, can be used to control laptops, wireless speakers, and other objects via pinch and swipe gestures. The app also can ask users if they have forgotten their phone when they walk away from it, and users can activate the voicemail mode using a sweeping hand gesture. In addition, the phone can mute itself automatically when it identifies multiple faces in a gathering, and it blocks calls when it recognizes the inside of the user's car and detects engine noise.

"Surround-See is a nifty idea," says Carnegie Mellon University's Chris Harrison. "For smart devices to get smarter, they need more information, so having a sensor like this brings new capability."

From New Scientist
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