Handsfree Ubuntu

Ubuntu developer Canonical is experimenting with new hardware sensors as it looks at computing beyond the keyboard and mouse.

September 21, 2010
Handsfree Ubuntu

All computer users are used to controlling their desktop with a mouse and keyboard. But how about controlling your PC without using your hands at all and just using your body? 

It’s something that Canonical, the maker of Ubuntu Linux, is starting to work on.

Broadly grouped under the title of “hardware sensors”, Canonical is experimenting with new techniques to manipulate your desktop by simply moving your body.

In a blog posting earlier this week Canonical’s Christian Giordano wrote: “During a small exploration we did internally few months ago, we thought about how Ubuntu could behave if it was more aware of its physical context. Not only detecting the tilt of the device (like iPhoneapps) but also analysing the user’s presence.”

So, for example, if a user is watching a video on screen and leans back the video could automatically be increased in size. Or if the user is further away from the screen than usual popup notifications could be increased in size to compensate for the extra distance.

Other examples which Giordano suggests include being able to change the view of the desktop depending on the position of the user. The “parallax” effect would mean that certain windows would change position depending on the angle they were viewed from.

Giordano has also posted a video on the Canonical Design blog with a rough mock-up of how such a technique would work.

There are endless possibilities when a PC is aware of its user, from pausing a video stream when the user moves away to switching between screens when a user moves. These techniques are, however, still in their early phase of development so won’t be finding their way into Ubuntu this year but could well do in future releases.

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