Blowable User Interface | Tasty Research

Blow-out user interface

October 24, 2007 at 7:13 pm

I have just come back from a presentation at UIST, a conference I would call a forum for innovative sexy user interfaces. One of the more original lectures I attended came from a Georgia Tech student who managed to create a blowable interface on a standard laptop. He takes an ordinary laptop (with no hardware add-ons), blows on the screen and the laptop recognizes where it was blowing. Seems impossible?

How it works: when the screen is blown it creates a little noise that the microphone picks up. With a fast Fourier transformation, a vector is generated from amplitudes and phase shifts, the system then adapts a “beat” (as opposed to a click) with pre-classified vectors using the k-nearest neighbor. The best vector match is used to determine where on the screen the user was blowing. During the evaluation on a laptop it was 100% accurate on a 3X3 grid, 95% accurate on a 4X4 grid and quickly deteriorated afterwards. That’s pretty good considering you’re blowing on a laptop screen.

One application for this would be birthday cards sent by email, where the recipient could blow out the candles. Or even an electronic harmonica if accuracy would be improved.

Patel told me on a shuttle ride that he discovered this by accident one day while trying to blow dust off his screen with his sound recorder.

Given that few people would actually do the awkward act of blowing on their laptop while others were around, I would give this 10/10 for originality and 4/10 for actual usefulness.


Patel, S. & Abowd, G. (2007). BLUI: Inexpensive Localized Blowable User Interfaces. Proceedings of UIST ’07: ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology, 217-220. [PDF]

Entry filed under: Schlag, Uist, user interfaces.

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