Weird just got weirder – but with a purpose! Your simple smartphone is finally getting its own limbs – it can now walk, prance or hop about as much as it wants! No, I have not lost it! I am serious! Your smartphone will now tickle you or scratch your back whenever you want! Why are you laughing? I said I am serious!
Ok fine! Here is what I am referring to – Mobilimb. This weird contraption is the brainchild of Human-computer interaction researcher and analyst Marc Teyssier who has built this robotic attachment for smartphones and tablets which eerily resembles a severed finger.
Remember Thing from Addams Family? He just had a kid!
So, what is Mobilimb? And, why is it so horrifying?
- Teyssier along with a team of French researchers built this device to break the monotony of smartphones – generally we do things to our smartphone to make it work. Now, smartphones get to do something too!
- Basically, it is an artificial limb that is connected to any typical smartphone or tablet via its micro USB connector and derives power from it. The smartphone software then runs the various servo motors on the device with the help an Arduino
- With the power of computer code, this ‘finger’ can do a lot of things once it is researched upon and can help disabled people and people with visual difficulties to understand a few things better.
Technicalities of the ‘limb’
Marc says in his research paper:
- MobiLimb is a new shape-changing component with a compact form factor that can be deployed on mobile devices.
- It is a small 5 DoF serial robotic manipulator that can be easily added to (or removed from) existing mobile devices (smartphone, tablet). In the spirit of human augmentation, which aims at overcoming human body limitations by using robotic devices, our approach aims at overcoming mobile device limitations (static, passive, motionless) by using a robotic limb.
- This approach preserves the form factor of mobile devices and the efficiency of their I/O capabilities while introducing new ones:
- The users can manipulate and deform the robotic device (input)
- They can see and feel it (visual and haptic feedback), including when its shape is dynamically modified by the mobile device.
- As a robotic manipulator, it can support additional modular elements (LED, shells, proximity sensors).”
What can it be used for?
- The device can be used to showcase notifications, tap surfaces in random combinations to signify an event or an activity.
- It can be made to move towards you in time of an emergency (such as an earthquake Amber alert).
- It can also be programmed to move away from you when you are not fit to use a smartphone (for e.g. AI can detect that you are visibly drunk or something and not fit to use your phone).
- Basically, this device is an enhancement of the haptic feedback our phone normally gives us in the form of vibrations. This device can do more than just vibrate!
MobiLimb can be used as a tool for:
- Notifications display,
- 3D joint manipulation,
- Video preview,
- Improve grasping,
- Directional light,
- Self-actuated movement
MobiLimb can serve as a haptic interface and touch the user on
- the hand or
- the wrist.
This will facilitate the relay of physical text messages between users.
It is really needed?
- Even if it seems like an unwanted science project, it can have several beneficial uses if put to good use (once we figure out what to use it for!).
- As a tech enthusiast, I believe this device is a very smart demonstration of how powerful our smartphones really are in terms of computational power.
- Moreover, this device can move about, that makes it more dynamic and opens up possibilities of what it can and cannot do!
Practical uses of MobiLimb we can think of?
- An alarm clock that crawls away from you if you are not fully awake.
- If kept on your lap, it can make some specific gestures to let you know who texted you.
- It can stir your tea (if you’re willing to dangle your phone over hot liquid, LOL)
- It can clean your ear wax if it comes in a pinky size rather than index finger size. (Gross!)
- It can somehow protect your phone screen from shattering if it lands on itself and not the smartphone!
What do people have to say about it?
- Marc publishes in his research paper that 51 participants (11 female) aged 21 to 38 years (mean=26) completed the survey. The results of the study show a high tendency for positive results.
- In summary, 86% of the participants found the device amusing, 67% liked the device and 59% found it useful.
- The results reveal that participants were particularly enthusiastic regarding the uses of the product.
You can read Marc’s research paper via this link for more details: https://www.marcteyssier.com/content/publications/uist18-mobilimb-teyssier.pdf