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New app could make your phone learn its exact location

Researchers have developed a programme which can allow your smartphone to carry out a range of tasks just by recognising the surface it is placed on.

The prgramme called “SpeCam” uses the screen/display on a smartphone as a multi-spectral light source and the front facing camera to capture the reflection of the material it has been placed face-down upon.

SpeCam allows the way the screen rapidly cycles through different colours to illuminate the object to detect the material and infer the location or placement of the device.

This would link up with a previously created database so the phone could “understand” what type of surface it has been placed on.

This offers a wide range of applications from allowing your phone to tell you where it is when you cannot find it, to programming it to take different surfaces as a trigger for action.

For example, if the phone rings and you place it face down on your laptop, it could send a message saying “sorry, I am in a meeting”.

As the required hardware already exists on modern smartphones, the SpeCam system could be enabled through a software update or application download, according to a paper scheduled to be presented at the 19th International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction with Mobile Devices and Services, ACM SIGCHI MobileHCI 2017 on September 6 in Vienna, Austria.

“This is an example of what we call Discreet Computing or discreet interaction, where subtle and inconspicuous user actions can result in entirely new forms of interaction,” said lead researcher Aaron Quigley, Professor at University of St Andrews in Britain.

“By training and hence recognising materials, all the surfaces around us become a canvas for our imagination,” Quigley added in a statement released by the university.

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