Turn Your iPad’s Camera Into A Button Using This Simple App


(Source: Interesting Engineering)
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Apple’s iPad has the ability to support a wide range of apps and functions using just a home button and touchscreen technology. You don’t need a toolbar for the apps but it does pose a problem for app developers that require a toolbar for their apps to work to their full extent. This is where the iPad’s camera comes in.

Developers at Astro faced the same problem when they were working on their new app, Luna Display. The app is designed to let your iPad become a wireless second touch screen display using a small dongle. The developers wanted the users to be able to pull up the screen setting within the Luna app and didn’t want to add extra UI. As the iPad did not offer any other surface to utilize, they turned to the iPad’s camera.

You can see how it works in the video:

The team from Astro hacked the iPad’s camera and made it into an extra button. The tools menu appears on simple tapping the camera lens. A second tap makes it disappear. Astro HQ cofounder Giovanni Donelli describes how the idea came to them like a bolt of lightning, “I had been staring at a white bezel iPad for so long, and I kept wishing there was another home button we could use. My eyes kept falling on the camera, and I really wanted to touch it!”

(Source: MEGATechNews)
They are calling this the camera button and the mechanism behind its working is the amount of light hitting the camera lens. When the finger blocks the light, the menu pops up. There were a couple of drawbacks but the team was able to solve them as well. The first was that it required the camera to be active the whole time the app was in use, which uses up a lot of battery. They managed to make it such that the camera button only uses 1% CPU.

Here is what the founders had to say on Kickstarter:

The other and perhaps the more important issue was that of privacy. The job was to make sure that you were not making the hackers’ job easier. Astro created a way to blur the images to overcome this so the stream of data coming in was unrecognizable. The camera button is only registering light and the data coming in does no go to any servers. This solved the privacy issues as well and this ingenious hack has opened the doors to a number of developers who would like an extra button for their apps as well.
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