With PhonePoint Pen, you can hold your mobile phone like a pen, write short messages or draw simple diagrams in the air and send them to an e-mail address.
Thursday, June 18, 2009: Engineering students at Duke University, Durham, US have created a new cell phone technology called PhonePoint Pen, that permits users to write short notes in the air with their phone and have that message automatically sent to an e-mail address. To create this first-generation application, the students took advantage of the accelerometers in emerging cell phones.
According to researchers, accelerometers are the devices in phones that not only keep track of the phone's movements, but make it possible for the display screens to rotate from landscape to portrait modes depending on how the phone is rotated. These devices are always 'on', so there is no additional burden on the phone to use this new application.
"We developed an application that uses the built-in accelerometers in cell phones to recognise human writing," said Sandip Agrawal, electrical and computer engineering senior, Duke's Pratt School of Engineering, who with Duke graduate student Ionut Constandache developed the PhonePoint Pen. "By holding the phone like a pen, you can write short messages or draw simple diagrams in the air."
"The accelerometer converts the gestures to images, which can be sent to any e-mail address for future reference," Constandache said. "Also, say you're in a class and there is an interesting slide on the screen. We foresee being able to take a photo of the slide and write a quick note on it for future reference. The potential uses are practically limitless. That this prototype works validates the feasibility of such a pen."
While this first-generation application permits the writing of short messages or simple drawings, it is only a matter of time before this prototype system will be able to handle larger and more complex air-writing capabilities, said Agrawal's mentor Romit Roy Choudhury, assistant professor, electrical and computer engineering.
"One of the efforts of our group is to take a fresh look at how people get their information into the Internet," commented Choudhury. "We're trying to get past the whole idea of typing on a keyboard or using a stylus to enter information into devices. Many people get discouraged with current phones and their small keys. As phones get smaller, this frustration will only grow."
"And today, especially now in the age of Twitter and micro-blogs, the speed at which you send information becomes more important. To be able to write quickly using only one hand would be very attractive to many people," Choudhury added.
"It is only a matter of time before we improve the performance of this application," Agrawal said. "We plan to further augment the pen with real-time feedback, character recognition and better support for drawing diagrams."
The PhonePoint Pen prototype is expected to be available for download within the next few months.