Material controlled smartphone


Credit: University of St Andrews

A new technology developed by researchers at the University of St Andrews, UK, can allow a smartphone to carry out a range of tasks by recognising the surface it is on.

The program, SpeCam, would enable existing phones to use the camera function to recognise different materials they have been exposed to. This would link up to a database so that the phone could identify the type of surface it has been placed on.

This ability opens up new applications for smartphones. For example the phone could be programmed to perform a function such as send and ‘in a meeting’ message if placed on a certain surface. 

It would also allow the way the phone is held to perform tasks, such as changing the volume on the television or playing certain music depending on what surface it has come into contact with. 

SpeCam uses the screen/display on a smartphone – as a multi-spectral light source – and the front facing camera to capture the reflection of the material it has been placed face-down upon using the way the screen rapidly cycles through different colours to illuminate the object to detect the material and infer the location or placement of the device.

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