SideSwipe brings gesture controls to phones using radio signals

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Imagine if your smartphone was ringing away in your bag or pocket, and you were able to silence it simply by waving your hand in the air, without even taking the phone out. Well, that could soon be a reality, thanks to technology being developed at the University of Washington. Known as SideSwipe, the experimental system allows a phone to recognize gestures via the manner in which the user’s hand reflects back the phone’s own wireless transmissions.

A research project at the University of Washington shows a way to add gesture control to phones without requiring sophisticated new sensors. It works by identifying the interference that hand gestures cause in the radio signals that are already transmitted to and from a phone. Called SideSwipe, the project could make it possible to answer a call with a wave of a hand, even if your device is buried deep in a bag. It might let you scroll through a recipe without putting your dirty hands on the display, or navigate a map without having to obscure any part of it with your fingers. The key to SideSwipe is looking at how hand movement changes the wireless signal and using that to determine specific gestures. A paper on the project will be presented in October in Hawaii at the annual ACM User Interface Software and Technology Symposium.

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