Skip to Content
Uncategorized

Just Tilt to Enter Text

Motion-sensing cell phones would provide a new way to scroll through data.
November 1, 2003

The same tiny gizmos that deploy air bags in cars could soon make cell phones less cumbersome to use. Several academic and corporate labs are developing ways to use ultrasmall accelerometers and gyroscopes-which sense a car’s sudden deceleration during a crash and trigger the air bags-in the guts of cell phones and other handheld devices. This makes common tasks, such as scrolling through lists, entering numbers, and moving information from one place to another, much easier; you simply tilt the gadget in various directions.

In July, MyOrigo of Oulu, Finland, released the first motion-sensitive Web-enabled cell phone. If only part of a Web page fits on the screen, tilt the phone toward the missing content and it slides into view. It’s a novel approach that “gets at one of the core problems of navigating a Web page on a mobile device,” says Kevin Burden, an analyst at IDC in Framingham, MA.

Other researchers are using tiny accelerometers to allow simpler text entry on handheld devices. Ravin Balakrishnan and Daniel Wigdor, University of Toronto computer scientists, have built a prototype cell phone in which, for example, tapping the “7” key while tilting the phone forward enters the letter q on the display screen, but tilting to the right enters the letter r. In tests, Wigdor and Balakrishnan found that subjects using the device could enter text 30 percent faster than they could through the usual approach, in which a user taps a number key multiple times to select one of the three letters written on it. The researchers say several manufacturers have expressed interest.

The next step for accelerometers? Ken Hinckley, a Microsoft researcher, envisions handhelds that form instant wireless connections when clinked together like champagne glasses. Hinckley prototyped the idea using Wi-Fi-enabled tablet computers with embedded accelerometers. Bumping two tablets establishes a connection: if one tablet reports moving leftward and striking another object, and the other reports a bump on its right side at exactly the same time, both know that they have been linked. Tilting one of the tablets then dumps the contents of an open window-again via Wi-Fi-onto the other’s desktop. Microsoft doesn’t have any immediate market plans, but Hinckley is already talking about putting the same functions into wristwatches. And that could let you send files just by shaking hands.

Deep Dive

Uncategorized

Embracing CX in the metaverse

More than just meeting customers where they are, the metaverse offers opportunities to transform customer experience.

Identity protection is key to metaverse innovation

As immersive experiences in the metaverse become more sophisticated, so does the threat landscape.

The modern enterprise imaging and data value chain

For both patients and providers, intelligent, interoperable, and open workflow solutions will make all the difference.

Scientists have created synthetic mouse embryos with developed brains

The stem-cell-derived embryos could shed new light on the earliest stages of human pregnancy.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.