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Looking Forward to the Smarter Smartphone


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iPhone and Palm Pre

The new iPhone and the Palm Pre offer few major features that haven't been seen before.

Credit: Apple and Palm

Cutting-edge research suggests there are major changes in store for smartphones. For example, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Brandon Taylor and Michael Bove are building pressure sensors into phones, enabling them to detect the exact position of a user's fingers. Such devices could change their function based on the user's grip, allowing the user to hold the device like a camera to take pictures, like a phone to make calls, or in another grip to play games or listen to music. Another idea is to put the touch screen on the back of the device, which would eliminate the problem of a user's fingers hiding the icon or button he or she is trying to select.

A Microsoft Research team in Cambridge is working to completely remove the interface from the device. Microsoft researcher Alex Butler's team added infrared sensors to a phone to enable it to detect the position of a user's fingers up to 10 centimeters away when the phone is placed on a flat surface. Butler's system, called Sidesight, could be used to interact with objects onscreen without touching the phone and could be used as a handset to control another device, such as a robot or TV.

Meanwhile, Nokia is working on a prototype that gathers energy from mobile antennas and TV masts to improve the device's battery life.

From New Scientist
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