Thursday, November 15, 2007

Tilt-O-Mania, also known as Nokmote

Have you ever felt that your idea is stolen and "Damn, I wish I had been faster in doing it"? Now I feel exactly that way.

The first time I heard that another Nokia phone, N95, has a built-in accelerometer I started wondering why on Earth? Why on Earth is it worth for Nokia to put such a device in their phone? Has Nokia 5500 Sport (first Nokia device with built-in accelerometer) proven that it's worth making further experiments with? I haven't seen any analysis telling so, although I admit that it doesn't mean anything. Why on Earth has Nokia kept it secret that there was such a gadget in their hottest device? Is it a secret? Isn't it something that makes the device even cooler?

Then I started to think about what we could do with it? First, I thought RotateMe was a great software, I really liked the idea. But I felt something was missing. Then I found it: why not simulate joystick key presses (i.e. left, right, up, down + press) by tilting the device to the right direction? Since it's fairly easy to simulate key events in Symbian C++ just as if they had really occured, I thought it was easy to implement. The good thing in this idea that it works with existing software, no need to re-write or adapt anything: applications will not notice the difference between real keystroke and simulated.


That would have been the name of my software. R.I.P. Now it's called Nokmote and it's not mine at all. :( Sorry guys behind the "sad smiley", I'm happy that you'll come out with an implementation, but I must tell you that I'm unhappy that you'll come out with it. :)

To be honest, I was always wondering why nobody had ever discovered the opportunity in writing such a software. As more and more S60 devices will come out with built-in accelerometer this feature could become such an integral part of user experience that even Nokia might want to use it. I dare to claim that even the joystick could be replaced by the accelerometer + this solution in the future. Not only could Nokia save some money by removing some existing hardware (i.e. the joystick), but they might even be able to use the new spare space for other purposes. Isn't it so cool?

And you know what? The solution is not Nokia/Symbian specific: any (mobile) device having a motion sensor could do on-screen navigation like this. Another Symbian phone, iPhone, gPhone even a laptop, though it would be funny to see a businessman tilting his computer at the airport just for the sake of navigation. :)

On the other hand, I was shocked to find that my(?) idea was not original at all. I mean not that now somebody has come out with an implementation for S60, but this idea was implemented years(!) ago on another mobile phone. You know, some of my colleagues have worked with a MyOrigo device and when I told them my idea they enlightened me that it had already been implemented. Check out this article from The Register and you'll see that such a device is already on the market. Okay, it is a not-really-famous mobile phone and perhaps it doesn't even make use of accelerometer data, but still the idea is theirs: user tilts software navigates.

Never mind, although I'm sorry to see that I can't be THE pioneer in this area, I'm happy to see that it'll be available to us soon. Good luck for writing the software!



telsave said...

Interesting article but perhaps you should tilt this to read it. I enjoy your writings
cheers Dave
For 21st Century Communications

Artem Marchenko said...

Actually few years ago I had a chance to play with MyOrigo and since then I am not sure if it is a good idea to *replace* the joystick with an accelerometer. It is quite difficult (or slow) to use accelerometer to position anything as precise as it is needed for e.g. menu navigation.

Somehow tactile feedback and ability to know exactly how many items are expected to be scrolled (by knowing how many you pushed the button) are important.

I believe accelerometer-based input is useful only when you only need to input just a direction (up/down) and don't really care about *how much* it is up or down. This might work for turning the alarm off, for playing car simulators or for light sabers, but not exactly for menu navigation.

Gábor Török said...

Very useful info, Artem, thanks for sharing! However, you can still digg it. ;)

Artem Marchenko said...

Digged it :)

poison_ivy said...

Yep, had some ideas that I was too lazy to act upon and then somebody came up with it. Too bad you weren't able to develop it first but I'm sure an even better idea would come to mind that would be like, a breakthrough in terms of symbian apps. I'm crossing my fingers for you.

Zeca said...

I had the exact same idea when facing older aplications on my new 5800 ... many aplications were not made touch friendly, and since nokia has no compatibility mode for them this would help some to work...