Smartphones can already do pretty much everything, right? Actually, UAB computer scientists have a few more ideas.
They’re tapping into the accelerometers, proximity sensors and other environment-aware chips packed into modern phones to help users stay safe — and keep ahead of the bad guys.
Here are seven innovations that could be coming soon to your favorite device.
1. Watching your back
Most of us are very protective of our phones. Ragib Hasan, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the UAB College of Arts and Sciences Department of Computer and Information Sciences and director of SECRETLab, wants them to return the favor. He is developing software to turn a phone into a digital wingman, using information from its camera, microphone, accelerometer and other sensors to gauge a user’s attentiveness and respond appropriately. When it detects that a person is driving, for example, it could silence all but the most important alerts. If it decides from the way that you’re walking and talking that you are drunk, it could prevent you from making bank transactions. Hasan’s code will also save important security warnings for times when you are alert, rather than groggy from sleep.
The project builds on a study by Munirul Haque, Ph.D., who recently completed a postdoctoral fellowship in Hasan’s lab, and collaborators at Marquette University. The researchers found that a phone can do a remarkably good job at sensing mood. They parsed camera images to read facial expressions and accelerometer data to judge energy expenditure (anxious people tend to pace; inactivity is often a signal of depression). Their system was able to recognize six different “affective states”: anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness and surprise.