Sony squeezes a 'Gummi' computer

Summary:A team of researchers at Sony's Interaction Lab in Tokyo is looking at bending as a way of interfacing with credit card-sized computers.

Squeezing, twisting, nodding and drawing shapes with fingers are some ways that users may interact with portable computers of the future.

A team of researchers at Sony's Interaction Lab in Tokyo is looking at bending as a way of interfacing with credit card-sized computers.

"WIMP (windows, icons, mouse, pointer) user interfaces allow reasonably efficient interaction with computers in a desktop environment, they are difficult to use on small, handheld devices. As devices and screens become smaller, pointing and clicking on small interface elements becomes increasingly difficult," according to a report issued by the team.

The team of Carsten Schwesig, Ivan Poupyrev, Eijiro Mori have unveiled a prototype called Gummi, which means 'rubber' in German.

Gummi consists of a rigid TFT-LCD color display mounted on a flexible base, with a conventional USB touchpad mounted on the bottom. Bending data is obtained from two sensors attached to opposing sides of the prototype. The flexible base is rigid enough to return to a flat state when no force is applied.

Scrolling, highlighting and selecting is carried out by a combination of bending the two ends and touching the pad. Results are promising and as organic light emitting diode (OLED) displays can be made in a flexible format, the future for such devices looks bright, said the report.

While Sony bends its way into the future, researchers from the University of Glasgow and the Canadian National Research Council have devised an audio menu driven by nods from users, according to MIT's Technology Review Web site.

The three-dimensional audio menu presents users with sounds that seem to come from different directions. Users select items by nodding in the direction of the audio choice.

The second method involves finger-tracing X, N, and / shapes on a screen. The screen has nine squares, and one of nine different musical chords play depending on where the user's finger is, to give feedback.

The techniques, which require headphones and a head-tracking device, are designed for outdoors computing, where it can be too noisy for speech input and where the user has to keep hands and eyes on another task.

Topics: Hardware

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories

The best of ZDNet, delivered

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
Subscription failed.