Tablet interacts with magnets, how does that work?

Making computers interact with physical objects is a favorite of the HCI gurus out there, but these builds usually take the form of image recognition of barcodes or colors. Of course there are new near field communication builds coming down the pipe, but [Andrea Bianchi] has figured out an easier way to provide a physical bridge between computer and user. He’s using magnets to interact with a tablet, and his idea opens up a lot of ideas for future tangible interfaces.

Many tablets currently on the market have a very high-resolution, low latency magnetometer meant for geomagnetic field detection. Yes, it’s basically a compass but Android allows for the detection of magnets, and conveniently provides the orientation and magnitude of magnets around a tablet.

[Andrea] came up with a few different interfaces using magnets. The first is just a magnets of varying strengths embedded into some polymer clay. When these colorful magnetic cubes are placed on the tablet, [Andrea]‘s app is able to differentiate between small, medium, and large magnets.

There are a few more things [Andrea]‘s app can do; by placing two magnets on an ‘arrow’ token, the app can detect the direction in which the arrow is pointing. It’s a very cool project that borders on genius with its simplicity.

You can check out [Andrea]‘s demo video after the break.

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Acoustic barcodes deliver data with a fingernail and microphone

Either through QR codes, RFID, or near field communication, there seems to be some desire to share tiny pieces of data in a more physical and accessible form. [Chris Harrison], [Robert Xiao], and [Scott E. Hudson] of the HCI Institute at Carnegie Mellon have come up with a fairly interesting solution of making data more physical. They call it Acoustic Barcodes, and it’s able to store over a billion unique IDs in a small strip of plastic.

By engraving a barcode pattern into a piece of wood, stone, glass, or plastic, the guys then attached a microphone to the barcode and ran their fingernails across their invention. A computer interprets the sounds of a finger scraping against the acoustic barcode and produces a series of 1s and 0s.

This binary code can be used to look up various items in a database, or perform actions on a computer. In the video after the break, you can see these acoustic barcodes attached to a whiteboard to provide real tactile control of a video projector.

You can check out a PDF of the Acoustic Barcode paper here.

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Tracking eye movement by measuring electrons in the eye

[Luis Cruz] is a Honduran High School student, and he built an amazing electrooculography system, and the writeup (PDF warning) of the project is one of the best we’ve seen.

[Luis] goes through the theory of the electrooculogram – the human eye is polarized from front to back because of a negative charge in the nerve endings in the retina. Because of this minute difference in charge, a user’s gaze can be tracked by electrodes attached to the skin around the eye. After connecting eye electrodes to opamps and a microcontroller, [Luis] imported the data with a Python script and wrote an “eyeboard” application to enable text input using only eye movement. The original goal of the project was to build an interface for severely disabled people, but [Luis] sees applications for sleep research and gathering marketing data.

We covered [Luis]‘ homebrew 8-bit console last year, and he’s now controlling his Pong clone with his eye-tracking device. We’re reminded of a similar system developed by Atari, but [Luis]‘ system uses a method that won’t give the user a headache after 15 minutes.

Check out [Luis] going through the capabilities of his interface after the break. [Read more...]

Pen based input improvements

Lately we’ve been focusing on multitouch technologies, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t interesting research going on in other areas of human-computer interaction. [Johnny Lee] posted a roundup of some the work that [Gonzalo Ramos] and others have done with pen based input. The video embedded above shows how pressure can be used to increase control precision. Have a look at his post to see how pen gestures can be used for seamless workspace sharing and how pen rolling can give additional control.