Nokia Plug and Touch Demo, via Electric Pig UKSometimes, its not enough for people to dream about what they want, we get to see the results of companies which are able to take those dreams and make something magical with it. Such is the case with Nokia’s Research Center and many of the technologies which they come up with. The latest of these comes from their Beijing NRC branch and is called Plug and Touch.

What is Plug and Touch?

Think of the Nintendo Wii (and soon to come Microsoft Kinect accessory for the XBox) and how they use gestures to enable you to control something on your TV/projector screen. Plug and Touch (P&T) takes this a step further by using your mobile phone to not only play the role of “seeing” your movements, but it literally turns that TV/projected screen into a touchscreen.

This is how it works:

  • You plug in the Nokia mobile device to a TV or projector using the Composite Video TV-Out cable or HDMI cable (depends on the Nokia device for what it supports here)
  • You then enable the application (or this is something automatically triggered as the device senses its plugged in)
  • You then begin touching and swiping across the screen as if you were using a touchscreen device.

In many respects, this is the kind of technology that uses a mobile phone to turn any surface into a touchscreen by using all of the mobile device’s technologies: camera, sensors, etc. Take a look at the video to see what I mean:

For those really thinking hard, P&T literally takes what Microsoft has done with its Surface project/product and turned it completely mobile.

I Can Touch My TV Screen, So What

Relevance… the fun piece about this. What makes this product so innovative? Let’s go back to a post I did earlier about the future of screens. Take another look at the video in that post, notice how there’s this symmetry between computers, TV-like screens, and the data, and how there’s seamless touching, swyping, and typing across them. Now, let’s start to take out all of the duplicate technologies from the equation.

With a mobile as powerful and capable as a laptop/desktop, we can remove that, and so we’re just left with a keyboard/pointer and large screen. We can then use P&T to drive that interface, while having it plugged into a power supply so that we are able to still go mobile and not worry.

We can take an interaction of being in your car, and instead of simply plugging your mobile into a dock and it just is a speaker phone with some large fonts for a clock, pointing the device’s camera towards you, the device’s screen can be readapted for your audio/music/entertainment needs, but this tech makes that also touch-usable.

Taken a step forward, P&T could use the front-camera (since nearly every Nokia device has these) to capture your gestures, while the larger camera scans the road ahead for mapping and infotainment needs – to which you can also interact on your steering wheel (or a passenger can in their area of the auto).

Pauses My Project a Bit

Nokia Plug and Touch, via @petrahelsinkiNow, I have a project of my own underway to add a projector and literally turn my wall into an interactive interface. This project from NRC literally enables and trumps some of what I have had in mind. They have the benefit of some better software developers and nicer budget than I – so I’m not mad, just wanna join in the fun.

For me, if the questions around inputing text are solved, this could essentially replace the use of many types of wireless accessories such as keyboard or joysticks. And at the same time, it also means that a bro would like to have a long cable, because unless I’m presenting, I don’t want to be that close to a large, lit screen.

Is This Coming Soon

Being that there was a working demo of Plug and Touch at the (in progress) 2010 Nokia World Conference, I’d say that this isn’t something that’s too far out there. What I’d like to see (and have asked) is if this could be one of the projects that makes it into the wider playground of Nokia Beta Labs. This could be a pretty neat project, and should become nearly standard on high-end devices in the near future.

What’s not soon-coming about P&T seems to be media attention. In terms of those things mobile, much of the louder press tends to talk about certain hardware specs or those things so exotic that they aren’t feasable. I’d really like to see the conversation and push towards projects like this being released faster into the consumer-public/wild. It is software (or hardware or services) like this which engages the imaginations of people. And for many of the folks I speak to – especially the younger ones – we should probably do all that we can to show them a future that they can touch, and eventually move past us towards.

For more information about the research which goes into projects like plug and Touch, visit the Nokia Research Center (NRC) website.

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