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ments, eventually other devices could be used, such as smart phones or watches.” What does control plane mean? “We use a Butterfly-net analogy to explain how the cursor selects objects in space, the users simply sweep the 3D cursors through,” Dorta said. “For the manipulations of objects, the users can use gestures and movements such as pinching and orientation.” The cursor is in fact being demonstrated within the researchers’ Hyve-3D design system, a full scale immersive 3D environment that enables users to create drawings on hand-held tablets, which can then be manipulated on the tablets to create a 3D design within the space. As the designers are immersed in their work, for example designing a living room, they can test different Researchers at the University of Montreal have developed techniques that enable computer cursors to interact in 3-D in single or multiuser, local or remote collaboration scenarios. Image courtesy of Hybridlab, Université de Montréal. furniture options according to the scale and even work on the interior detailing. The immersive images are the result of an optical illusion created by a highresolution projector, a specially designed 5m-diameter spherically concave fabric screen and a dome mirror projecting the image onto the screen. Specialized techniques render the 3D scene onto a spherical projection in real-time Univalor, the university’s technology commercialization unit, is supporting the market launch of the Hyve-3D system and the 3D cursor, via the startup Hybridlab Inc. Several patents are pending. “Beyond its utility for sketching, we believe the 3D cursor has applications in a wide range of fields, such as architectural design, medical imaging and of course computer games. This isn’t a gimmicky rebirth of the cursor, it’s about rethinking how humans interact with computers as part of the creative process,” Dorta said. Startup revives smartphones’ joysticks: rear-mount By Julien Happich Tiny rubber joysticks had their time embedded in the keyboards of laptops and smartphones from a few years ago, but they could never compete with the versatility of today’s touch-screens. Today, Londonbased start-up Supenta is reviving the idea of built-in joysticks with the Flitchio smartphone case. The snap-on device adds two shoulder buttons and two ultrathin and pressuresensitive joysticks at the back of a smartphone shell, promising a much intuitive user interface for mobile gaming or drone control. The actual joysticks rely on Peratech’s Quantum Tunnelling Composite pressure-sensitive sensors, enabling users to punch, accelerate or spin harder or faster depending on the pressure they apply. The battery-less case is powered through the phone’s NFC reader (harvesting enough energy to power the sensors). Supenta was incorporated two and a half years ago, it has already won three EU/UK awards and received funding from Innovate UK to build up an engineering team and develop its first prototypes. Its Kickstarter campaign to bring Flitchio to market was short-lived, indeed, the company quickly attracted private investors and decided to cancel the crowd-funding process in favour of a faster ramp-up, hoping to reach the consumer market by February next year. “Initially, we were planning to offer Flitchio cases for the Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, but we had many requests to support more phones, so in February, we’ll come up with cases to support at least four flagship smartphones, then we’ll add more if need be”, told us Dr. Amir Shadmand, CEO and Co-Founder of Supenta during a phone interview. But in the longer term, Shadmand may consider licensing his patent-pending joystick solution to smartphone OEMS, since the technology is thin enough to be integrated directly into the phones’ plastic shells. The add-on joysticks and buttons could find other uses, such as for selfies, menu scrolling, smart TV remotes using your smartphone or even as a novel way to secure and unlock your phone with customized pressure-sensitive patterns. These add-on buttons impinge no delays on the action, claims Shadmand, they are as fast as today’s touch-screen controls, but they operate with more precision and they don’t block the view on the display, probably the best-selling argument considering smartphones’ limited screen real-estate. “We are negotiating with a company making miniature drones, they want Flitchio as their controller”, told us Shadmand. “Their current remote controller is double the size of the drone itself, and the problem with smartphone-based touch-screen control is that when you are streaming video, you don’t see what’s happening if your fingers block half the view”. Supenta will soon release a software development kit, so many more applications could emerge. Early 2016, Flitchio is expected to retail for GBP 39 including VAT. Flitchio smartphone case with built-in game controller www.electronics-eetimes.com Electronic Engineering Times Europe September 2015 27


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