Virtual turntable simplifies sharing

December 29, 2004/January 5, 2005

The lazy Susan -- a platter that turns, making everything it holds accessible to anyone in any position around the platter -- is an eminently practical interface.

Researchers from Keio University in Japan have tapped the concept with an information-sharing scheme for mobile device users that evokes the simplicity and utility of a lazy Susan.

The software, dubbed DataJockey, allows people using devices such as photo-enabled cell phones to pass copies of digital images, messages, songs and documents to nearby devices by dragging copies of the objects to a virtual lazy Susan and turning a dial on the side of the mobile device.

On a handheld device, objects appear at the bottom of the screen. Users can put them on the virtual platter by dragging them to the upper portion of the screen. When one user moves the platter it moves across all connected handheld screens. Users download objects by dragging them from the top of the screen to the bottom.

The interface makes sharing digital information in a face-to-face situation easier so people can concentrate on communicating with each other, according to the researchers.

The virtual lazy Susan software runs on a server; hand-held devices connect to the server via bluetooth short-range wireless communications channels.

In the researchers' study, groups of users who shared snapshots using the method easily understood the concept, and negotiations about rotation of the virtual table occured naturally and without dispute, according to the researchers.

The technique could be ready for commercial use within six months to share information among existing cell phones that are equipped with cameras, bluetooth, and global positioning system tracking devices, according to the researchers. They presented the work at the User Interface Software and Technology 2004 (UIST '04) conference held in Santa Fe, New Mexico on October 24 to 27.

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