airtext

Smart Mobs
Wave Messaging

From the company that pioneered text messaging, picture messaging and multimedia messaging, comes new innovation - Wave Messaging, or Light Messaging, according to a Nokia press release

By waving the Nokia 3220 camera phone from side to side, the LED lights of the Nokia Xpress-on FunShell light up to "write" a message that appears to float in mid-air.

Related articles on airtexting-type technologies:

-- In March 2003, the WSJ reported from CeBIT about a phone called Kurv, made by Kyocera Wireless Corp which featured airtexting: "The company believes airtexting will be one of it's most popular features, especialy in night clubs. To airtext, you type in a text like 'call me' then wave it back and forth in the air. As the phone moves, a row of blinking red lights along the top of the phone leaves the phrase trailing behind it."

-- A company called Wildseed actually tested airtexting with teenagers.

If they made an airtexting enabled BlackBerry, I wonder if they would allow them in Congress. With the massive penetration of BlackBerries (NYT - A BlackBerry Throbs, and a Wonk Has a Date), it would be like a chorus of Hecklebots. Anyway, I want one. Forget night clubs, imaging having one in the audience during talks.

33 Comments

Hmm, wasn’t Information Technology supposed to level the field as far as physical abilities were concerned — leaving the petite 155cm lady as much chance for her “voice” to be heard as the 200cm yahoo ?

To stay within the limits of the eye’s persistence effects, I fear that the longer the message, the quicker the sweeping of the phone must be through space. Conjuring up a 12-character message, say, would require covering within a comparable time interval a much larger distance in space — and correspondingly larger physical exertion — than putting up a tiny 3-character message.

As a first approximation, assume that successfully sweeping a 12-char message within the eye’s persistence time limits would require an arm velocity quadruple of that required for a 3-char message.

The “Ek = m×v²/2” formula tells us that the kinetic energy Ek is proportional to the square of velocity. The 12-char message might thus require 16 times more physical exertion to display successfully than the 3-char message.

Now, expending a larger amount of energy within a comparable timeframe requires an engine with larger power output, i.e. more muscle mass. If the petite lady’s and the yahoo’s muscle densities are comparable, then the yahoo would need 16 times more muscle mass !

But wait ! More muscle means that there’s more mass, in addition to the phone and LEDs, that must be quickly moved through space. As kinetic energy is proportional to mass, the total energy expended for a 12-char message would be a factor of 16 (for additional muscle mass) times 16 (velocity squared) = a whopping 256 times the energy required for a 3-char message !

Heckling at meetings will thus be an activity monopolized by those with thick arms...

But wait ! An energy output 256 times larger means that the engine output power — as before, assumed proportional to muscle mass — must be 256 times larger too ! Iteratively, this means that we need 256 times more muscle mass, instead of just 16 times ! Where does this escalation end ? Something definitely sounds wrong here... ;-)

Ok, what's annoying me about these press releases, is they don't explain HOW this works. By what physical method is this message able to stay in the air? Is it leaving behind some kind of glowing smoke? Can it only be view privately through your picture phone via some kind of augmented reality? HOW does it actually create the message in mid air???

Back in 1983, my Dad bought me a toy which worked on the same principle. The toy was the size of a tennis racket and had a "Speak 'n Spell" like keyboard. You would type your message in and then and single column of LEDs on the opposite side of the paddle would illuminate. The message was only readable once you waved the paddle in the air. It was a very cool gift, but the fun wore out kinda quickly.

The effect was accomplished by moving a vertical column of LEDs rapidly in a horizontal direction, and blinking them so they emulate each column of LEDs in a normal LED sign that has multiple rows and columns. It all happens very quickly, so fast that the eye does not pick up the horizontal movement. The display repeats, with the message displayed in the exact same position several times so that the message seems like it is being continuously displayed. This functions much like the single beam of electrons in a television that trick the eye/brain into interpreting a whole image. This physical waving is what makes the message look like it is floating in mid air; the bright message is static to the viewer but the assembly is moving rapidly behind it and is blurred out.

Mostly Vowels: You have too much time on your hands... ;)

Paul Hughes: it is called "Persistence of Vision". You ever twirled around a sparkler or glow stick? Same idea.

Here, Pete's played withthis stuff and explains it a bit:

http://www.philliptorrone.com/povshoes/

I seem to recall seeing some Coca Cola (or maybe Pepsi Cola) advertising "floating" outside the windows of the Narita Express as the train sped through the tunnel as you leave the airport. And of course you have those clocks where the time and a message appear to float in the air. Mike B. has it right as far as the technique goes.

I know about persistance of vision, especially night sticks.. but the motion is arbitrary. How is this device making very clear messages like the one the girl has. There is no way she could be that precise. And since it requires that you move the phone around, how does the phone know precisely where it is in order to make the character lines so crisp and easy to read?

Didn't Phil Torrone come up with this concept first?

I remember the first time I saw something like this. There used to be a line of LEDs mounted on the back wall of the LA Museum of Contemporary Art's temporary building, on the back side near the Artist's Loft District where I lived. The idea was that as you looked left and right at the intersection, scanning the crossing traffic at the red light, you'd subliminally see the sign as your eyes moved past. It spelled out the letters "MOCA." I always got a headache shaking my head back and forth while looking at it.

Paul Hughes -- I'll bet when you were a kid you also believed the toys being sold on cereal boxes could actually do all the marvelous things the illustrations showed. C'mon, this "photo" of the girl waving the phone is, um, phoney, jigged up to make it look much better than the real thing. It's called advertising.

I know about persistance of vision, especially night sticks.. but the motion is arbitrary. How is this device making very clear messages like the one the girl has.

In my experience it took a little while to get the arc and speed of the wave just right. If you didn't, the message would blur quite a bit.

After several tries, I finally figured out that the trick is to establish your elbow as the vertex of the waving arc. Then, you need to keep that point stable as you wave your arm back and forth like a metronome.

It's sounds dumb, but it's like magic.

I imagine that with OLEDs you could create the same effect and perhaps more. With a greater resolution and range of colors you could create floating emoji, simple animations, and multi-heckle-media ad naseum.

"FUN" is the last thing I'd think to "Airtext".

I'd rather be Airtexting something like "STFU" or "HOLY CRAP I AM BETTER THAN U." Then the phone would fly out of my drunken hands and smash into the 80" plasma TV the mafia bar-owners had just bought by selling baby organs.

The same would happen to some one who started waving the word "fun" around in the air, because I'd slap the "fun" out of their hands.

Either way, I'd be screwed. So lets just move on and put this Airtexting stuff behind us.

the photo's a pretty bad fake. they didn't even bother to have somebody motion blur her immense paw in photoshop.

This technology would be great if it were built into the tail lamps on cars... most drivers would only need one phrase (which I won't say in polite company), of course, so that would simplify matters, as you could limit the display to 9 characters including one space and one exclamation mark. :)

Hmmm. So club kids are going to be frantically waving their cell phones in the air, in the middle of hot and sweaty dance clubs. Cell phones start flying, breaking, getting lost, etc. Demand for new cell phones subsequently rises. Shrewd.

If this is put on cars, and other vehicles does the timing of the message - as in the timing on the LED on/off - have to vary according to the speed of the vehicle?

It does seem destined for remainder bins within 6 months, but I wonder if we'll see it installed on the exterior of Virgin Atlantic, touting the latest and greatest.

This idea is somewhat common in the uber-geek world of hobby microcontrollers and electronics. A good beginner project, as they say. Some sites with real photos of real displays by real uber-geeks:

http://www.mcselec.com/an_128.htm

http://www.seattlerobotics.org/encoder/200112/srs.htm

http://home.epix.net/~iracerc/clock.html

http://www.twyman.org.uk/3D-Display/#apps

Now, a true uber-geek (I'm personally only up to potential wannabe status) could make a handheld device that could do the same thing for anyone to carry around. Say the size of a Snickers bar, if only to give one a decent area of grip. Inputting the text to be displayed would be via a number of methods, from bluetooth on your cellphone to IrDA or USB or a set of buttons for prepared messages or whatever. All of the above is possible.

Hmmm, how about putting one on the spokes of your bicycle, riding around in urban areas and selling advertising?

Ray -- bicycle wheels? I like it!

The word the woman should have spelled out in the ad is "Sucker", as in anyone who pays for this "new" and "cutting edge" technology is one.

How is this device making very clear messages like the one the girl has. There is no way she could be that precise. And since it requires that you move the phone around, how does the phone know precisely where it is in order to make the character lines so crisp and easy to read?

If you look at the Nokia pages, it says that the clip-on shell has a motion-detecting accelerometer, to detect it's movement and position, making the text display consistent.

I wonder if the accelerometer could supplement GPS (from the GPS clip-on) readings in dense urban areas...

You can buy childrens' toys at Target that do this kind of air-writing. Physical ability is a non-issue here. (Aside from those who don't have fine motor control over their arms.) It's simple for kids to get these kinds of displays to work without a lot of coordination or strength.

Keep in mind that you don't need to describe an arc large enough for the whole message to display at once; it scrolls the message through the arc you provide for it. You can just kind of shake it back and forth and it still displays fine. In fact, I had a toy as a kid circa 1982 that wrote scrolling LED messages in the air just like this.

MostlyVowels, I don't think your tiny ladies have anything to worry about.

This isn't new (but sticking it in a phone is, I guess). I have a little widget that does exactly (and only) this - it's called a SpaceWriter (model number LTC-15). See www.spacewriter.com

It has a really poor UI (5x7 matrix on the front plus the side blink-leds, and 3 confusing and non-labelled buttoms) but works fairly well once you've entered your message (requiring relative darkness, of course) - looks like there's a piezo disc thingy attached to the pcb on one side, with a little weight on the other, to detect the start/end of the waving motion. The LEDs down the side go mental in interesting harmony and if the timing's right then the message is legible.

The linked URL is to a photo of its output (took a lot of work with my cheap+lame digi camera to capture that, but it is absolutely 100% genuine) - the Heart and Stickman are in its character set.

As I recall, this was invented and patented by artist Bill Bell in the early 80's. (US Patent 6,023,255. Check out the demo videos and New Yorker article at: http://www.subliminaryartworks.com/

And you thought laser pointers were annoying...

While this is a cute but essentially worthless addition to cell phones (meaining it should become extreme popular in Japan), it does lead me to wonder how long it will be until advertisers come up with a way to use this as a medium for serving up their spots.

This combined with GPS could lead to personalized targeted spots not unlike the movie "Minority Report"....airvertising?

I'm sure that this concept of airvertising is already being dreamed up by some creative/technical folks as it would be a whole new avenue for them to explore. Not too sure how much I would care for this though....there is already enough 'noise' in the world.

Check this review of the gadget in The Register. Lovely dry humor in here...

"The clip-on cover has 12 orange LEDs so when it's waved around, a short message or image appears - just like projecting a laser onto the surface of the moon and equally pointless. And it only works at night - or as the blurb on the website goes: "The optimum environment for wave messaging is when no daylight is available." Quite so.

So, if you are standing within six metres of the recipient of your message and there is an absence of daylight you can start waving your phone to display the message or image of your choice - just like this chap in the picture, whose life has been enhanced beyond recognition by wave messaging.

You can wave a preset message or image or create your own. Or you could buy two phones and get a job parking jumbos at the airport. Alternatively, lay 50 3220s in two rows of 25 and you could guide in drug-laden light aircraft with a friendly "land here no feds w8ing" message beamed to the heavens. Let's face it, the possibilites are endless."

the bicycle wheel leds have already been made.

http://hokeyspokes.com/

I do have one of these phones with the Xpress-on Case that shows the LED lights. It's really cool and does show in the light, it's just easier to see in the dark of course. I tried it at work with some of my co-workers and they loved it. Although you can write long messages, it is hard to display it. But that's not the point of the LED display, the whole point to the kid craze of texting and instant messaging. Small, short, concise and even sometimes abstract messages.

I got this phone for free and thought to myself, that I never would have thought about looking at a phone like this if seriously looking, but all in all it's a great phone! I'm very surprised! I am a woman with small hands and the small size combined with the four grips that are so cool when they light up, help my hands hold on to the phone. These grips of course double as the push and pull of the momentum and you figure out how to display the words pretty quickly.

Not only is this a really cool plus to the phone, it has a ton of great ringtones, that are loud and even change pitch from song to song. The LEDs light on either side differing from ringtone to ringtone. There are a ton of graphics that are animated and really fun. And the camera is not bad either. There are more games and graphics that I ever really need but it's cool to know that its all there.

It's definately a phone for the target audience of teens and pre-teens, but all in all it's a very durable phone and Nokia, I've found has some of the best phone's that last the longest.

If I had a choice between the Motorola RAZR and the Nokia 3220. I would choose the Nokia! Hands down! The Motorola is sleek but doesn't have nearly as much cool stuff as this one does.

Tah Tah,
Pixel Monkey

Oh, and about the LED's and Bike's. Already thought of, check this website out.

http://www.hokeyspokes.com/

Just a follow up on Matt Fowlers comments (22). www.spacewriter.com have launched a new model LTC123. It is easier to program with backlit LCD display and button beeps. It can write text in red, green or yellow. Also the motion detection is improved. The new LTC123 Light Trace Communicator wavemessaging gadget also includes umlaut characters in its character set, so it can be used in most of Western Europe. There is also a Japanese version.

This wouldbe really kool if oyu could simply use your mobile LCD screen with blinking dots on the screen. Though most mobiles don't have "motion chips" the effect wouldn't be great, but it would still be a nice thing to have:)

Hmm, Justin is right - is this possible on the iPhone which is fully programmable with access to it's accelerometer?

cDima- just what I was thinking as I was going thru the comments. And the dimensions of the screen display could be artificially narrowed in whatever dimension you are waving the iphone, so you wouldn't need to worry about having the perfect magic metronome-motion MikeB was describing above (and back in 2004!). Anyhow, maybe there's a hitch to doing this on the iphone, since there's no relevant app coming up in the App Store in a search for "pov" as of this writing.

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Nokia's come up with a new phone with an innovative feature - wave messaging. By waving the Nokia 3220 camera phone from side to side, the LED lights of the Nokia Xpress-on FunShell light up to 'write' a message that appears to float in mid-air Read More

Nokia calls it "wave messaging", but the basic idea is simple. Remember writing letters in the air with Diwali sparklers? Substitute programmable LED's for the sparkler and you can write messages in the air by waving your phone around.... Read More

Airtexting from infogargoyle
June 2, 2004 2:22 AM

By waving the Nokia 3220 camera phone from side to side, the LED lights of the Nokia Xpress-on FunShell light up to "write" a message that appears to float in mid-air. To airtext, you type in a text like 'call... Read More

Even cooler than this Nokia phone are the new words that seem to have entered the language. Read More

Nokia calls it "wave messaging", but the basic idea is simple. Remember writing letters in the air with Diwali sparklers? Substitute programmable LED's for the sparkler and you can write messages in the air by waving your phone around.... Read More

Nokia calls it "wave messaging", but the basic idea is simple. Remember writing letters in the air with Diwali sparklers? Substitute programmable LED's for the sparkler and you can write messages in the air by waving your phone around.... Read More

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