Imagine your phone ringing on the breakfast bar across the room. Could it be the job offer you’ve waited all week for? But—drat—you’re smack in the middle of changing your three-month-old, who’s made something otherworldly and possibly radioactive in his diaper. Not the best of times to swipe your potentially contaminated fingers across your phone’s immaculate glass screen.
But wait: You hold out one hand, palm-up, and tap the padding just below your forefinger. The phone stops ringing. You quickly tap the padding below your pinkie, then half-say, half-shout “Hello?” And the person on the other line answers—through your speakerphone.
Sound as otherworldly as what’s in the diaper? It might not be, if researchers at the Hasso Plattner Institute at Potsdam University in Germany have their druthers, reports New Scientist.
It’s not so outlandish, after all. You’ve seen the metric ton of Kinect hacks, right? All you’d need to make it work, according to these guys, is basic memory of your phone’s screen layout (where the “answer” button appears, as well as “speakerphone”), and a device that can track your palm presses (as in your hand, not the old Palm Pilot).
The Potsdam researchers first tested to determine how many people know the basic layout of their phone screen (turns out 68 percent), then used special infrared-based motion-tracking cameras to gauge finger presses on palms. The cameras send commands to computers which in turn drive the phone. Voila, instant your-phone-is-your-hand!
So what, to make it work we’re wearing cameras on our heads? Not at all, say the researchers, suggesting the device could eventually integrate with clothing, say within something as inconspicuous as a shirt button or brooch.
What else might you do with your new “iHand”? Besides freak people out, how about leave the phone at home and spend the day “all-imaginary,” using just your palm to route calls to an earpiece. Even Star Trek couldn’t have foreseen that.