Researchers turn camera phone into mouse

Researchers have developed that allows users to swivel a camera phone to scroll or move items in a PC.

Researchers in the UK have developed software that loads camera phones with mouse capabilities, allowing users to swivel a camera phone to scroll or move items on a PC screen.

While the software is in its infancy, the technology could enable people to use camera phones to scroll public displays to get further information on products or purchase items like plane tickets.

Communicating with a PC via Bluetooth wireless technology, users can either move the cell phone or use a stylus on the cell phone's screen to also scroll through a computer screen, said Patrick Olivier, an associate professor at Newcastle University. Olivier is working on developing the technology with researchers Nick Pears of York University and Dan Jackson of Newcastle University.

One of the original goals was to interact with larger public displays to, for example, buy movie and train tickets and interact with advertising displays, although the applications of this technology are limitless, the researchers said.

For example, users will be able to scroll through large display screens in a real-estate agency, even though there could be glass window in between, Pears said.

After communicating a cell phone's field of view through a live camera feed to a computer via Bluetooth, the PC establishes the coordinates of its monitor which it sends to a camera phone. Once the camera phone registers the image on the cell phone and recognizes the display coordinates set by the PC through image processing technology, the computer knows exactly what the phone can see, which sets the stage to scroll a PC.

Users can then move the phone or use a stylus on a touch-screen to scroll a PC or move items. The PC and camera phone work together to continuously reposition a PC monitor's coordinates as the phone moves, allowing the cell phone to scroll a PC from any position in a room.

The researchers have developed the software for the Symbian and Windows Mobile OSes for PDAs (personal digital assistants) and camera phones, the researchers said.

While the technology holds promise, it is still under development and multiple issues are being addressed, Pears said.

"The image capture and image processing rate on the cell phone is quite slow and so you can not move the cell phone as quickly as you would like to. This is what we would like to address in our next prototype," Pears said.

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