London, January 16 : UK researchers have written software that can enable a camera-equipped cellular phone to be used as a three-dimensional computer mouse.
The prototype software facilitates movement and manipulation of onscreen items simply by waving a handset around in front of a screen, similar to the motion-sensitive Nintendo Wii controller.
"It feels like a much more natural way to interact and exchange data. Most people who see it think it is really cool," New Scientist magazine quoted Nick Pears of York University, who made the system with colleagues from Newcastle University, as saying.
All that the users need to do to control a screen is to simply aims their cellphone's camera at it. Through Bluetooth, the handset then connects to the computer that operates the screen.
This connection allows the computer to know exactly where the phone is pointing, as it places a reference target on top of the normal video feed and compares this to the phone's picture.
The distance between the cellphone and the screen is based on the way the screen's size changes due to perspective.
The phone's movement and rotation are translated by the computer into the actions of an onscreen cursor.
Using the phone like a 3-D mouse, and for interacting with objects by pressing its keys or rotating the handset is also possible.
For testing the efficacy of the software, volunteers were asked to resize an image on a screen. They chose the picture using a button and manipulated it by moving or rotating the phone.
The screen enlarged the photos when the phone was moved closer, while drawing it away made them smaller.
In another trial, the phone was used to sketch a house.
"I like this because connecting phones and computers is just such a pain right now. You should be able to see something on screen and just get hold of it," says Mark Dunlop, who works on user interaction and mobile phones at the University of Strathclyde, Scotland.
A paper on the prototype set-up will be demonstrated at the International Conference on Computer Vision Theory and Applications in Madeira, Portugal later this month.