A group of researchers from Snap – the parent company of Snapchat – and Columbia University have created an interesting way of controlling a smartphone. The team has created vidgets – small mechanical inputs – that are added to the smartphone without requiring any kind of connecting wires or Bluetooth connection.
Vidgets will come with their companion app that will be able to exploit the phone’s inertial measurement unit (IMU) or accelerometer. By picking up the minute and sudden movements in the position of the phone in space as you turn a dial or push a button, the system will be able to execute a variety of mechanical inputs.
These small mechanical inputs will be added as molecules onto a case that can be attached to the back of your phone. Vidgets don’t impart much of a bulk to your smartphone, they do not require their own power source, and don’t cost much as well. What is their use? Well, you can add a dial that enables you to zoom in on a map or photo, especially when you are using the mobile phone with only one hand. You can also control a game using a push button located on the side of the phone, thus keeping the screen free from your fingers.
The researchers have written in their paper, ‘Physical widgets give us a reassuring feeling of control, a touching sense of the phone’s orientation, and are probably more efficient for applications such as gaming. Physical widgets also often complement software widgets, in cases where it is just inconvenient for the user to touch the screen.’
These vidgets will also prove super helpful when you are wearing gloves. They are modular in nature and can be quickly adjusted according to your needs. Despite the many benefits, the system is not ready for a rollout, yet since there is a lot of work that still needs to be done. Most of the work deals with improving the accuracy of the motion detection especially in cases where the phone is already vibrating (when traveling on the road etc.)
You can witness the vidgets in action in the video below. The work shall also be presented at the 2019 Siggraph Conference that commences on July 28.