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Photo via the University of Washington.
Photo via the University of Washington.

Imagine silencing a call or changing a song by waving the air above your smartphone — all while the device is still in your pocket. That may soon be possible thanks to some new research coming out of the University of Washington.

Researchers from the UW have developed a smartphone sensor called SideSwipe that detects in-air gestures above and around a device by using wireless transmissions. What’s novel about this particular gesture technology is that it uses existing GSM signals sent from your smartphone to detect where your hand is moving. Some of those signals are reflected back to the smartphone, and SideSwipe has an algorithm that enables gesture recognition.

As UW News notes, this method is advantageous over current technology because it uses less battery and does not require a clear view of your hands.

“SideSwipe’s directional antenna approach makes interaction with the phone completely self-contained, because you’re not depending on anything in the environment other than the phone’s own transmissions,” Matt Reynolds told UWNews. “Because the SideSwipe sensor is based only on low-power receivers and relatively simple signal processing compared with video from a camera, we expect SideSwipe would have a minimal impact on battery life.”

Reynolds, a UW associate professor, developed SideSwipe with fellow SNUPI co-founder Shwetak Patel, along with researchers Chen Zhao, Ke-Yu Chen, and Md Tanvir Islam Aumi. The team, which was funded by the UW for this project, will present their findings at the Association for Computing Machinery’s Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology next month.

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