By Leo Kelion – Technology reporter
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Researchers say they have found a way to detect and recognise human gestures based on how they affect wi-fi signals.
They suggest it could let users control home appliances with a wave of the hand while in any room of the house.
They say the WiSee system offers a “simpler, cheaper” alternative to Microsoft’s camera-based Kinect and other specialist gesture sensors.
However, other experts in the field question whether the new tech will be able to be as accurate.
Details about the project have been published by the University of Washington’s computer science department ahead of the Mobicom computing conference in Miami in September. The paper is a “working draft” and has not appeared in a journal.
The researchers suggest offering an alternative to a vision-based system could make a range of home-based gesture controls practical.
“For example, using a swipe hand motion in-air, a user could control the music volume while showering, or change the song playing in the living room while cooking, or turn up the thermostat while in bed,” wrote lead researcher Shyam Gollakota.
To achieve this, the researchers have experimented with the Doppler effect – the way a wave’s frequency changes at the point it is observed depending on the source of the wave’s movements.
The best known example of the effect is how one hears the pitch of a train’s whistle change as a it approaches and then passes.
The team say a wireless router can be used to detect related changes in wi-fi signals – which are electromagnetic waves – as they reflect off a moving human body.
By using a specially developed software algorithm, the computer scientists say, they were able to distinguish nine different types of movements including a pushing motion, a punch, a circular hand movement and a kick.
To demonstrate the system, the team carried out tests in an office and a two-bedroom apartment.
They say their system was able to correctly identify 846 of the 900 gestures performed – a 94% accuracy rate.
They say these included situations in which the user was in a different room to both the wi-fi transmitter and receiver, requiring the waves to pass through walls before being detected.
The researchers acknowledge the risk of such a system being triggered by unintended gestures or even the risk of a hacker seeking to take control of a target’s equipment.
The researchers say their software can use a wi-fi router to detect when a human is making a gesture
To tackle this they suggest a password system that would involve the user repeating a preset sequence of gestures four times in order to ready their equipment for a command.
They say that an added benefit of this would be that it would reduce the risk of false positives – situations when the system mistakes natural variance in wi-fi signals for a gesture.
The researchers claim their equipment can work with up to five people in the vicinity of the router so long as it it is fitted with multiple antennas. But they note that the more people there are, the less accurate the system becomes.
They say their next step is to try to work out the best way to use the system to control multiple devices at once.
In the meantime they have set up a website to publicise WiSee, suggesting they want to bring it to market.
“Imagine that in the near future you would buy wireless router which could also do gesture recognition. WiSee enabled,” they say.
“Unlike other gesture recognition systems like Kinect, Leap Motion or MYO [sensor armband], WiSee requires neither an infrastructure of cameras nor user instrumentation of devices.
“WiSee requires no change to current standards.”
Dr Richard Picking – a human-computer interaction specialist at Glyndwr University in Wrexham – said the US team’s research had merit, but would still need to overcome several hurdles to become a commercial product.
“There is real potential for WiSee to compete with other devices in their established markets, such as gaming and entertainment,” he told the BBC.
“However, although the developers claim that it is unlikely that false commands could be triggered and that it is essentially a secure technology, there is a long way to go before people will be convinced that it will be reliable and safe enough to control household appliances.”
Another activity recognition expert – Daniel Roggen from Newcastle University – agreed that the system had potential, praising its idea of reusing existing resources rather than requiring the installation of cameras and other sensors.
Microsoft’s Kinect 2 sensor uses a 1080p resolution camera to improve its activity recognition abilities
However, he noted that the wi-fi equipment used by the researchers was more expensive than the norm, costing about 10 times the price of Microsoft’s Kinect.
“It remains to be seen if either a single such device is sufficient to cover an entire house and if the price of the equipment can be brought down,” he said.
“The activities presented in the paper are also very coarse. It remains to be seen if subtler human behaviours can be picked up.
“[By contrast] Microsoft’s Kinect is specifically designed for activity recognition. As such, it has an advantage over ‘opportunistic sensing’ approaches, and it can pick up subtler movements such as finger movements in its newest version.”
Computers With Foldable Screens Will Make Laptops and Tablets Obsolete
At CES last week, Intel revealed its Horseshoe Bend foldable-screen computer prototype. Lenovo demoed another foldable-screen X1 laptop that it co-engineered with Intel. When unfolded, both devices resemble large tablets, but as you bend the screen upward, they feel much more like laptops.
This isn’t the first time companies have attempted to merge tablets and laptops — Microsoft infamously tried with Windows 8 — but with Intel and Lenovo’s new computers, the hardware is adaptable, rather than only the software. And unlike foldable phones, which are great marketing tricks with few realistic benefits, this new segment of computers will change how we use both laptops andtablets: They’ll merge the two categories into one.
Tablets and laptops have remained separate categories largely because their physical design simply can’t do both jobs well — tablets are usually all screen, and a laptop typically has a keyboard glued to the lower half that can’t be changed.
While laptop sales have slowed since tablets arrived, devices like the iPad, which has dominated the category, still aren’t perfect replacements. It’s awkward to hold an iPad and type on it for long lengths of time, so people often buy the keyboard case to make it act more like a laptop or relegate the iPad to watching Netflix. There’s simply no middle ground without awkward cases, attachments, or stands that end up making tablets more like a laptop in the first place, defeating the point.
Owning a tablet and a laptop will feel ridiculous, because a single device will do the job of both devices.
Meanwhile, laptops lack the magic of a tablet. While Windows supports touch and pen input, it’s a tacked-on experience at best, with few apps truly taking advantage of touchscreens. Laptops are also generally much bulkier and have a shorter battery life.
But a foldable tablet’s display size and shape no longer restrict how the device can be used. Adding a fold means you can prop up the device without a kickstand, for example. It also means you can fold it the opposite way to halve its size for use in tight spaces like airplanes or even safely fold the screen inside the clamshell when you’re not using it, like you would a laptop. When the device is folded open, it has a large, glorious screen — the Intel prototype measures 17 inches fully unfolded — with nothing else in the way.
The new generation of foldable-screen devices is a peek at a future where owning a tablet anda laptop will feel ridiculous, because a single device will do the job of both devices.
Naysayers will point out the benefits of keyboards and physical keys and that it’s more difficult to type on a flat display. While that may be true, the iPhone’s success shows that this is unlikely to be a problem; the adaptability and flexibility of virtual on-screen keyboards beat out the need for the physical keys found on the BlackBerry and ultimately opened up new opportunities for developers to use the screen real estate. And for those who remain attached to real keys, there will always be the option to attach a traditional keyboard.
Still, the success of truly foldable-screen devices is far from assured. Manufacturers aren’t yet committing to prices or availability. Lenovo provides just a vague “2020” timeline and says that it “expects” pricing to start at around $2,499.
New categories are risky, as Samsung discovered with the debut of its foldable phone, the Galaxy Fold, which was discovered to break easily almost as it debuted. As manufacturers race to be the first to market, we may see one or two foldable-screen laptops become publicly available, but their longevity with remain a question.
And without fundamental overhauls to the way software is designed to adapt to constantly changing screen sizes and layouts, foldable-screen computers will fail. Every demo of a foldable-screen computer at CES was running Windows 10, which isn’t yet optimized for this new world.
Microsoft is building a new version of Windows, labeled Windows 10X, that will address some foldable-screen capabilities. It debuts later this year with the Surface Neo, the company’s own foldable-screen device. The software is specifically designed to adapt to devices that morph in shape and size, like the Neo and X1, but it’s not yet available to manufacturers.
The Neo, as well as larger devices from manufacturers like Asus, will likely arrive much sooner in stores than the CES prototypes since they are a different type of foldable. They sport two distinct displays with a hinge connecting them, rather than a single display that folds — a technology that is much easier to achieve.
Manufacturers of truly foldable screens still need to ensure the devices can reliably fold without breaking over the long haul — but their demos forecast a future where our devices adapt to us, rather than the other way around.
Android Phones in 2020 to offer Ultra WideBand Tech like iPhone 11 Pro
Just like the Apple‘s iPhone 11 Pro, the Ultra Wideband chip will be making its way to Android smartphones starting this year according to Barclays Analyst who believes the trend could start this year 2020.
According to MacRumors which was able to get though the research note reported that Android phones will now use an all-in-one Ultra Wideband, NFC and Secure Element chip from the Dutch company, NXP Semiconductors.
The company last year released it’s chip which Samsung seems to already be interested in using meanwhile, other smartphone makers are likely to join the bandwagon later on this year 2020.
According to the NXP, the Ultra WideBand technology was expected to have been launched since last year. The essence which is to allow smartphones have better features such as car unlocking based on proximity.
While Apple is suspected to be planning on creating it’s own chips that can be used to allow devices act as locator beacons just like Tile trackers. The 2019 iPhones 11 Series already use the chip to aid AirDrop to send files to specific users just by pointing at them.
With the SR100T, mobile devices will be able to communicate with connected doors, points of entry, and cars to open them once approaching. Lights, audio speakers, and any other connected device with UWB sensing capability will be able to follow users from one room to another, and smart connected technology will intuitively be embedded in people’s lives.
We also expect to see a much more powerful iPhones being released this year while the devices will include the aforementioned tracking technology. With that said, other Android smartphone makers will most likely join and create this feature on their devices as they get launched this year.
Designing the Gaming Monitors of the Future: the Odyssey G7 and G9
2020 is set to be a big year for Samsung innovations. A year that will see the company chart a bold new future not just for technologies like AI, 5G and IoT, but everyday devices like gaming monitors as well. Since producing its very first gaming monitor less than four years ago, Samsung has soared to the top of the market with a portfolio of offerings that combine outstanding performance with immersive visuals.
Now, the company has announced that beginning this year, its Odyssey line of gaming laptops, PCs and VR devices is expanding to include gaming monitors, too. This will establish Odyssey as Samsung’s official product line for gaming gear. Visitors to Samsung’s CES 2020 booth can see firsthand how the company applied the futuristic design cues that the line is known for – and gamers love – to create the all-new Odyssey G7 and G9. Both the (27- or 32-inch) G7 and the (49-inch) G9 come packed with next-level specs including ultrawide, 1000R-curvature screens, a rapid 1ms response time, a 240Hz refresh rate for incredibly smooth FPS (first-person shooter) gameplay, G-Sync compatibility, and much more.
To learn more about the process behind the gaming monitors’ designs, Samsung Newsroom interviewed some of the designers who brought the monitors to life.
A New Chapter for the Odyssey
When discussing the process of refining the Odyssey G7 and G9’s designs, each member of the team, from Samsung’s Visual Display Business, stressed the importance of putting the needs and interests of gamers first. That, at its core, is what the Odyssey line is all about: equipping users with the tools they need to enjoy the best possible gaming experience.
However, as Visual Communication designer Adam Burgess noted, the launch of the Odyssey G7 and G9 not only demonstrates Samsung’s commitment to offering consumers game-changing gaming technologies, “It also creates an opportunity for us to thoughtfully communicate the philosophy of the Odyssey line in a way that feels authentic to our product offerings now and to come.”
That philosophy is realized in a pair of monitors created under design principles that can be summed up with the words “courageous,” “futuristic,” and “confident.” The devices’ simple designs set the tone for Odyssey monitors to follow, and are distinguished by their sharp contrast of black and white elements and use of eye-catching blue accenting. (It should be noted that the “Odyssey” name will also be applied to Samsung gaming monitors that are already on the market.)
“The word ‘Odyssey’ brings to mind the idea of navigation, of a journey,” said Burgess. “As Samsung’s official product line for gaming gear, Odyssey offers consumers next-level gaming experiences, powered by a combination of advanced gaming technologies and purposeful design. Together, these two attributes evoke the image of advancing toward the future.”
The Odyssey G7 and G9’s futuristic designs are products of the team’s careful observation of market trends. Odyssey G9 designer Juwon Cho explained the team’s approach.
“Our market research has shown that Samsung gaming monitors consistently earn good reviews,” said Cho. “However, we received feedback that some consumers would like to see genre-specific gaming elements incorporated into gaming monitor designs. To chart the best course for enhancing our offerings, we first examined some of the popular games and devices that gamers tend to prefer.” When the research showed that many gamers prefer futuristic concepts, the team adopted that term as a key design principle.
For gamers, one of the Odyssey G9’s most appealing – and futuristic – design elements may just be the Infinity Core Lighting on its back. As Cho explained, the key to its design boils down to the same factor that enables the monitor to transform users’ gaming sessions: immersion.
“When designing the lighting, we utilized light and mirrors to create the sensation that you’re being transported to another dimension when you look at it,” said Cho. “Of course, gaming on a 49-inch curved monitor with a 32:9 aspect ratio evokes that same immersive sensation, and that alone would be very enticing to many gamers. However, we wanted to create gaming monitors that offered more. That is to say, we wanted them to be monitors that users would be proud to show off.”
As design team member Ki-hong Kim explained, however, immersion wasn’t the only factor that guided the Odyssey G7’s lighting design. “Like all Samsung gaming monitors, the Odyssey G7 features what we like to call Arena Lighting on its back,” said Kim. “We differentiated the design by adding dynamic shapes and lighting to the monitor’s front bezel. It’s all part of creating a monitor that, just like futuristic armor and weapons from sci-fi games, projects a strong image as gaming gear.”
Convenience Is Key
Kim emphasized that the consumer is always key when it comes to product design, and because gamers are always interested in what the professionals are using, “We asked professional gamers to share their detailed opinions and preferences so we could incorporate them into the product.”
For example, many pro gamers consider a gaming monitor’s stand to be a very important design consideration. This is because often times, when gaming, they require a large space to move their mouse, and a wide monitor stand may get in their way. It’s also important that the monitor stand does not prevent them from placing their keyboard in a comfortable position. To address these inconveniences, the team carefully calibrated the angle of the Odyssey G7’s stand to enable users to comfortably position their keyboard and move their mouse freely. Users can also easily swivel, tilt and adjust the height of both the Odyssey G7 and G9 to accommodate their posture and eye level.
Continuing his breakdown of the Odyssey G7’s design, Kim described various ways that the team enhanced the gaming monitor to differentiate it from conventional offerings. The G7’s 1000R-curvature screen is a sharp departure from typical gaming monitors, which feature boxy rectangular frames. He also explained how the team optimized the accent lighting to enhance the gaming experience and make the monitor stand out.
“Some members of our team were concerned that incorporating lighting into the front of the display could disturb gameplay,” said Kim. “This led us to come up with a lighting design that directs light downward. The design received positive reviews from users, and with that aspect of the design sorted, we were able to continue developing the product.”
The Odyssey G9’s glossy white design is another departure from convention. After surveying customer opinions, the team elected to utilize the color because feedback indicated that white creates the strongest impression of a futuristic design. Feedback on the monitors themselves has been terrific thus far, as both have already garnered Innovation Awards at this year’s CES – the Odyssey G9 in the Computer Peripheral Device category, and the G7 in the Gaming category.
Getting the Most Out of Your Monitor
In addition to discussing the process of refining the Odyssey G7 and G9’s designs, the designers revealed how they would utilize the monitors to enhance their own gaming experiences.
“Often times, when I play games, I play in a dark environment so I can immerse myself in the game and concentrate better,” said Kim. “The lighting on the front and back of the G7 was designed with consideration for such environments, and helps make the gaming experience that much more immersive.”
Cho added that the Odyssey G9’s immersion-amplifying design has the power to transform how users experience their favorite games. “The G9’s 1000R curvature allows it to fill the user’s entire field of view,” said Cho. “When you play games that support the monitor’s 32:9 screen ratio, especially FPS, flight simulator and racing games, the level of immersion is such that you feel as if you are inside the game itself.”
The market for gaming monitors is estimated to grow from roughly 7.8 million units in 2019 to 12.2 million by 2023.1 Going forward, Samsung will continue to lead innovation in the market by offering gamers monitor designs that put their needs first.
“Even after a gaming monitor launches, the team will constantly seek out feedback and data to reflect in the designs of future products,” said Cho.
“Our goal,” added Kim, “is to anticipate trends in the rapidly evolving gaming market, and design products that lead those trends – rather than products that are simply different from what’s already out there.”
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