Distance Detecting Pc


Reader [Joshua] sent in his latest project. using a sonar rangefinder, an Arduino, and some clever programming, he’s made is computer react to his distance from it. As you can see in the video after the jump, he has programmed it to change text size and background color depending on his distance from the screen. While he admits that his implementation doesn’t seem immediately useful, there’s lots of potentialĀ  there. We can actually think of several uses. What would you use it for?

55 thoughts on “Distance Detecting Pc

  1. How about just simple everyday uses? Automatically turning off the screen saver when you sit down and reach for the keyboard? Or shuts off the screen when you walk away? It would seem to me the best use of such technology would be integrating into human/computer interactions…

  2. Might be useful when the PC is being used as a controller function. For example, inside a darkened observatory, controlling a telescope. When you approach it, detailed control functionality is displayed. When you’re away, at the scope, large-text displays of the scope’s coordinates and and any imaging it’s doing. It could also control its red-light-screen brightness.

  3. Im with william deacon on this one, it’d be great if my computer at work locked it self when I got up and walked away. At work people are always forgetting to lock their computer when they walk away, this would be a nice safe gaurd.

  4. I third William Deacon.

    1. Close to the screen, screen saver turns off and computer becomes active.
    2. Near the computer, data screen comes up, with large type clock, maybe a news or stock feed, various status indicators.
    3. Not within the field of vision, monitor turns off and computer goes to sleep (or some other low-power mode).

  5. to further the idea of locking it when your away. you could set it up like WOL so when you get close it turns on. or you could make a portable version hooked up to a netbook and lay carpet or whatever haha

  6. If it can detect multiple people at a time, the distance detection mechanism could trigger an ALT-Tab if you boss walks in on you playing a video game at work or your girlfriend walks in while you’re looking at…

  7. I was thinking of using this in a more active sense.

    Combined with a webcam to recognize certain hand gestures, use the ultrasound range finder so I can manipulate objects on the screen with my hands.

  8. this is what i been looking for. a prank im going to do with my friends, but it requires it knowing if someone is actually in front of my comp. have a number generator count down, and if ne of my friends gets close to the computer, it will start the generator count down…. i can only think of evil things to do with this, sorry everyone, but I cant see any good, just evil, and fun from this proximity hack.

  9. shit, why does there have to be some whinging asshole with the same name as me?

    i like this idea; have you thought about using it to control zoom? move your face closer to the machine to zoom in, further away to zoom out. might be quite cool in google earth or something.

    i wrote some code earlier this year that uses face detection to let you control the mouse (and thus look around in a FPS game) by pointing your face left,right,up and down; it might go quite well with something similar!

  10. I’d use it to sound an alarm or possibly electro-shock myself every time my face got closer than arms length from the monitor- I don’t need glasses but staring at a monitor from a foot away all day can’t help.

    Ditto the wol (\/\/0L_?) ideas, it could automatically put your computer into “away” mode- power off monitor, pause music player or anything else that needs pausing, crank up your waiting torrents/processing/seti@home or whatever if you are away for more than a minute or so.

    Or it could just play the “Are you coming back?” and “there you are” portal turret sounds :)

  11. @saadin: with the mic?! You’re seeing to much Macgyver, how could you use a sound sensor to detect proximity? Unless you require the person to shout when (s)he approaches :P

    But most laptops now have cameras, you could probably do something very similar with only motion detection and face size identification.

  12. What would be cool is to control volume of an audio player with this. You’d set the volume to a comfortable room listening level. Then, if you walk away from PC, the level would go up a bit so you can hear from your kitchen. Then when you sit back in front of the PC, the volume would level down.

  13. i like all the ideas being thrown around. i think that what it boils down to is:
    >if user is in front of computer then
    >get distance
    >[distance related action]
    >[idle action]
    i could also see this being used as a way to save electricity (>ahem<), seeing as any ad these days is geared for green.

    (btw- i, too, am a bit puzzled as to why this is on “hack-a-day”)

  14. @hum4n

    you sir, are and idiot

    but seriously though, you could probably couple this with the robotic arm from the other day to make something like Stark’s assistant in Iron Man.

  15. Interesting, though may be useful for some things, a lot of the suggested can also be done with a built-in cam in some laptops. Which means the software can be adapted to existing hardware already out there. Except for the telescope application, where in darkness using a IR to light up the scene for the camera may interfere with viewing of the stars.

    Now take a servo, put the system on that and rotate it around, and you have a cool little sonar(radar) fuction, you could then plot it out. Add one more servo to give you a controlled Y axis to move the beam up and you could do a 3D plot of your envelopment. Kind of spiral scan. Would have possible uses in robotics to chart out your environment before proceeding.

  16. while i also like the idea of unlocking/turning off a screensaver when you sit down, i personally find this is be a highly impractical and inefficient approach to such an idea.

    currently, there is already a method of unlocking a workstation using a chip you carry on a keychain or in your wallet, and it locks when you go so far away from the the machine. similar to the newer keyless entry/start vehicles. this is also better for security reasons, obviously, unless facial recognition were a capability.

    cool project though, kudos.

  17. i don’t know why this is such a big deal. connecting an ultrasound sensor to an arduino and making it control things on your computer is about 10 lines in the arduino sketchpad and 30 lines of processing on the computer. and the wiring is USB -> arduino, 5V/ground/analog from sensor to microcontroller.

  18. It would be cool to hook it up to a motion sensor camera – and then configure them both to a automated paint ball gun – have the computer calculate the proper tragectory and stuff

    or just measure a penis or two

  19. You guys are posting comments about how you can use this so your screen turns on or off if your around it on your computer?????well thats already been done .My alienware laptop can tell if im there in front of it or not and with facial recognition it can even tell if it is me and it will not respond to anybody else.I believe that this could be usefull for reading text at different distances becouse it can automaticly adjust the text size .If my laptop could do that i would be very happy.

  20. Just because you don’t see it as a hack does not make it a hack. Surly you can figure out how to make it work with a proxi sensor from a poloroid or without using an audrino. Its about the core idea that can be innovated upon. Use your brains and make it better or find more applications for such.

  21. @drake: I hooked a PIR motion sensor to my work PC’s parallel port ten years ago to lock the screen when I’m away and turn on the desk lamp via X10 when I log in and am at my desk. Many others have done the same with RF transponders, bluetooth MAC sniffing, cameras, and ultrasound. This isn’t novel or unique.

  22. @pokey: Not to be offensive . . . but did you post results on the web? This is the first I’ve seen this done with results posted. Sometimes its not about how you can use it, or how new the idea is, its about the results and the documentation. Just because you have done it before does not mean there isn’t anyone who hasn’t and needs ideas for hacks. Yes it is basic, but it has potential for other uses. Think of how it could be used in a smart home or a smart car. Some people cant afford specialized equipment but still need to know how it is done so they can find a solution for their needs.

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