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Gestures will shake up the mobile user experience

By Mikael Ricknäs
October 19, 2009 06:00 AM ET

Computerworld - Touch screens have changed the way people use mobile phones. But gesture controls, augmented reality and larger screen sizes are about to change habits even more, according to mobile interface expert Christian Lindholm.

In the future, we'll see more sensors in devices that can transform the mobile user experience by allowing control through gestures and other types of hand movement, according to Lindholm, managing director of Fjordnet Ltd., a London-based consultancy that has helped organizations such as the BBC develop user interfaces for mobile devices.

The use of gestures and movements to control phones has already started to take off. Some Nokia Corp. devices allow users to reject calls by turning the phone upside down, and Apple Inc.'s iPhone has a "shake to undo" capability. Lindholm said the technology could also be used to share files with a flick of the wrist or by touching two devices together -- as iPhone users can do with the Bump app.

De facto standards for gesture controls will eventually emerge so a particular task can be done in the same way no matter what device is used, he predicted.

Lindholm also has a side business -- Berlin-based Tech21 Sensor GmbH -- that is working to replace phone keyboards with trackpads, which could be used to sense gestures. Once devices are able to recognize gestures, the next step is for them to sense pressure. "So we could put a gas pedal and a brake pedal on keys," said Lindholm.

The technology will come to market in a couple of years, he said.

Read more about Mobile/Wireless in Computerworld's Mobile/Wireless Topic Center.

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