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MIT Technology Review

Phone It In

September 1, 2004

Public touch-screen displays such as airport check-in kiosks aren’t known for having versatile interfaces; they usually lack keyboards or pointing devices, limiting users to a few navigational buttons. But new software from High Energy Magic of Cambridge, England, turns a camera phone with a Bluetooth wireless connection into a portable mouse and keyboard that can take full command of public displays, doing away with the old touch screen. Working with Intel’s Cambridge research lab, High Energy Magic has developed a set of circular symbols, similar in concept to bar codes, that can be displayed by public terminals. Camera phones loaded with the company’s software can translate the symbols into data. Once a phone locks onto one of the symbols, it uses the Bluetooth short-range wireless protocol to send information about its size, position, and orientation to the computer running the display. The phone can then act as a mouse, manipulating on-screen controls such as scroll bars. The company plans to license the technology to businesses, such as travel agencies, that operate public kiosks.