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How to control your smartphone remotely

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Now we'll be able to control our smartphone remotely thanks to the work of researchers at the University of Washington who have developed a gesture recognition system that can work by keeping the smartphone at the bottom of a pocket or bag. Called SideSwipeIt is based on the detection of the waves emitted by the cellular connection.

The project could make it possible to answer a call with a simple wave of the hand, even if your device is buried deep in your bag. It could allow you to scroll through a recipe without putting your dirty hands on the screen, or navigate a map without having to hide any part of it.

The configuration is based on antennas that detect fluctuations in the GSM signal emitted by the smartphone when a hand approaches it. An algorithm processes this information to recognize gestures with associated commands. SideSwipe can thus be used to manage incoming calls or control certain functions without having to take the mobile in hand. The hardware part consists of four antennas that pick up fluctuations in the GSM signal in all directions around the smartphone. When the user brings his hand close to the phone, the received signal is attenuated. This fluctuation is detected by the antennas while an algorithm converts the GSM signal into a continuous wave that is used as the basis for gesture recognition.

Researchers have studied signal interference on phones that use standard wireless GSM as it is extremely common around the world, but they believe the technology could also work with newer wireless standards such as LTE.

Researchers tested the system by asking 10 people to use 14 gestures each. The system can accurately detect movement at 87 % at a distance of 25 to 30 centimetres from the device.
Researchers at the University of Washington have identified several scenarios for use. There are three options for handling incoming calls: switch to silent mode by moving the hand closer to the device, send a predefined SMS response by scanning to the right, or reject a call by tapping the terminal. SideSwipe can also be used to navigate through the phone interface to scroll through a page, switch between applications or control the music player without having the phone in hand and in sight.

This gesture recognition could be added to smartphones already using antennas or by printing additional antennas on a phone's circuit board. But this will require SideSwipe to attract the interest of smartphone manufacturers.

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For now, researchers are refining their design of the external antenna, and plan to test SideSwipe with sporting activities such as walking or running, to explore how it can work with other wireless network technologies.

(Source: MIT Technology Review - September 26, 2014)
Photo ©University of Washington

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