New wheel accessory means your phone can run away from you
Mon 1 Aug 2016
Researchers in Japan have developed a new mobile phone accessory which places a set of wheels onto your device, so that it can roll towards you when you get a push notification or run away from you when your alarm is going off.
The team, based at the University of Tokyo, includes researchers Takefumi Hiraki, Koya Narumi, Koji Yatani, Yoshihiro Kawahara, who have posted a video preview of the prototype on YouTube, named ‘Phones on Wheels: Exploring Interaction for Smartphones with Kinetic Capabilities’.
The video displays the accessory which features a 3D-printed set of wheels and a case, containing a circuit board equipped with a micro-controller, a USB-serial converter, a motor, a motor driver, and a rotary encoder. The kit is able to harness kinetic energy to move around as required by the user.
The video demonstrates four control examples, using the accessory’s linear and rotational movement capabilities; ‘Motor actuation’ allows the phone to push objects, ‘Hard Push’ enables the phone to roll in the direction of the owner when they receive a call or message, ‘Runaway Snooze’ is a movement-enhanced alarm app, which senses the hand and moves away from it, and ‘Scale Trace’ which measures distances using the robot’s wheels.
The system does not appear to contain any camera or sensor-based system to recognise the edge of a surface, so it would be advisable to place the device on a large base to avoid damage from falling off an edge. What’s more the surface would need to be solid and smooth, rather than a soft duvet or bedding for example.
Similar rolling robotic technology has been applied in the security field. Roambotics’ Jr. unicycle bot is an autonomous camera which rolls around the home or office and records near-360-degree video footage, alerting owners via a smartphone app should a threat be detected.