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Smarter Task-Transfers Use Mobile Cameras

MIT and Google have devised a method of transferring tasks between your smartphone and your computer by merely pointing the cell-phone camera at your PC’s screen.

How many times have you found a Web page on your smartphone that you want open on your desktop computer? Or perhaps you were viewing your destination on Google Maps and want to transfer that to your smartphone. Using an experimental app called Deep Shot, you can do these things by merely aiming your smartphone’s camera at your computer.

Deep Shot was developed by MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and Google for a paper presented at the Association for Computing Machinery’s conference on Computer-Human Interaction. The app was created by MIT doctoral candidate Tsung-Hsiang Chang in MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, and Google’s Yang Li.

The app works by taking a photo of your computer’s screen, and, using pattern recognition algorithms, it ascertains what program you are currently running and the document you have open. It then transfers that information from the desktop computer to your smartphone. And in the case you want to reverse the direction, the pattern recognition will ascertain which desktop computer it is pointed at and then transfer the currently open file on the smartphone to the desktop computer after opening the appropriate program there.

Google’s Deep Shot, developed with MIT, transfers tasks from the desktop to a smartphone, or vice versa, by merely pointing the phone’s camera at the PC screen. (Source: MIT)
Deep Shot works by encoding the currently running program and open file using an extended version of a standard universal resource identifier (URI, of which the more familiar universal resource locator, or URL, is a subset). After identifying the desktop computer (when transferring from a smartphone) or the application running on the desktop (when transferring to a smartphone), Deep Shot encodes the software’s state and sends the URI wirelessly to its companion.

Do not look to download the app just yet. This work is still in the proof-of-concept stage. To that end, the team has adapted several popular applications, including Google Maps and Yelp (the social networking and peer review site), to work with the app. But in order to use Deep Shot with other programs besides Yelp and Google Maps, application developers will have to build-in the ability to read and write URI’s. If commercialized by Google, an application programmer’s interface (API) would have to be published by Google and adopted by other application developers.

“I find it a really compelling use case, so I would really hope that companies like Microsoft would really consider adding it,” says Jeffrey Nichols, a researcher at IBM’s Almaden research center who specializes in mobile devices. “I see it being much more likely to happen with Websites than with desktop applications. On the other hand, to some extent, we’re moving away from desktop applications and moving more and more to the Web, so it’s not clear to me how important it is that we really bring all the native application developers into the fold.”