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Adding a Sixth Sense to Your Cellphone

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Using a palm for dialing a phone number

Lynn Barry/SixthSense

Many Indians bought their first mobile phones before they had their first experiences with personal computers. Pranav Mistry thinks that most of them might also skip keyboards and mice and go straight to more intuitive and interactive interfaces.

Mr. Mistry, a 28-year-old research assistant at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab, demonstrated what one such interface might look like at the TEDIndia conference taking place this week in Mysore, India, about three hours west of Bangalore.

He calls it Sixth Sense, and it uses a camera and projector brought together in a pendant that is worn around the neck.

His prototype, and the software that powers it, works with smartphones and turns walls, sheets of paper and other surfaces into screens for, say, browsing the Web. The camera translates gestures into commands – for example, you can hold up both your hands to frame a scene and flick your thumb to take a picture. Aim the device at an airplane boarding pass and the projector flashes the status of your upcoming flight. Mr. Mistry even demonstrated a clever way to copy and paste text from a printed page.

The best part, Mr. Mistry said is that the device can be made for just $350, using off-the-shelf components and his source code, which he intends to make available on an open source model.

“What I am in interested in is how we can combine the two worlds — the physical world and the digital world,” said Mr. Mistry, a former Microsoft employee and a graduate of the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay.

From The New York Times
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