Comment »Posted on Wednesday 10 June 2009 at 9:48 pm by Jacob Aron
In Inventions & Technology, Yes, But When?

Two stories today of new technology that could one day be built in to mobile phones. The first, developed by engineering students at Duke University, would allow people to write short notes by simply waving their phones in the air. The technology makes use of accelerometers already inside many newer phones, like the iPhone, which are used to switch the display from portrait to landscape view.

“We developed an application that uses the built-in accelerometers in cell phones to recognize human writing,” said Sandip Agrawal, one of the developers of the PhonePoint Pen. “By holding the phone like a pen, you can write short messages or draw simple diagrams in the air.

“The accelerometer converts the gestures to images, which can be sent to any e-mail address for future reference,” Ionut Constandache said. “Also, say you’re in a class and there is an interesting slide on the screen. We foresee being able to take a photo of the slide and write a quick note on it for future reference. The potential uses are practically limitless. That this prototype works validates the feasibility of such a pen.”

Whilst I can see the appeal of this, I’m not sure what more it offers over just using buttons or a touchpad keyboard. Perhaps if the keys are too small for you it would be useful alternative, but I think I’ll pass.

Perhaps more useful is this second story: Nokia are working on a phone that charges itself without being plugged in. This seemingly magical feat is made possible by sucking in power from the sea of electromagnetic energy that surrounds the modern world.

We are constantly wading through radio, TV and WiFi signals emanating from all directions, and scientists at the Nokia Research Centre in Cambridge have created a phone that harvests tiny amounts of power from a wide range of frequencies. So far though they have only achieved a tiny 5 milliwatts, which isn’t much use. Their next goal is 20 milliwatts, which would allow a phone to remain on standby indefinitely. Ultimately they hope to reach 50 milliwatts, enough to slowly recharge the handset.

You’re going to have to wait a while for both of these new gadgets though. In the case of PhonePoint Pen the team expect to put a prototype up for download in the next few months, but the recharging phones are at least three to five years off.

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