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Finns develop motion-controlled cellphone UI

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Finnish mobile phone developer MyOrigo has launched what it claims is "an entirely new concept" for mobile phones: a book-like user interface that can also be controlled by the motion of the user's hand.

The technology is incorporated into MyDevice, the company's reference platform, a prototype handset that provides tri-band GSM and GPRS connections, along with text and multimedia messaging - there's a built in camera and integrated MP3 player - and Internet access for e-mail and web browsing. It supports SyncML and USB for PDA-style data synchronisation, and there's an SD/MMC slot for memory expansion.

The platform is based on the Tao Group's Intent multimedia-oriented, programming language-independent operating system, which also equips MyDevice with Java 2 support.

On top of all this sits the user interface. It's book-like in the sense that touching the screen and dragging your finger from right to left turns 'pages' of the user interface just like the pages of a book. We've seen this kind of thing before, but this is the first time on a cellphone.

Other user interface operations, such as scrolling and zooming, are performed not with a stylus but by tilting and rotating the device. MyDevice's web browser displays the page at full size - by tilting the screen towards the bottom right, the screen scrolls in the opposite direction, exposing the bottom right corner of the page. Rotating the screen through 90 degrees cause the image to be redrawn at that angle, going from a portrait view to landscape.

The screen itself is touch-sensitive, but MyOrigo claims it responds to the user's touch. Borrowing techniques uncovered in virtual reality research, the company has engineered the screen to display a QWERTY keyboard whose virtual keys feels like real ones when you're typing an email.

The company says it's already working with Telefonica in Spain, and hopes to announce further deals with other European telcos in due course. Unsubsidised, direct-to-user sales are due to kick off in the UK in the autumn, later in other territories.

We should say that for all of this we only have MyOrigo's word. As a concept it sounds interesting - how it operates in practice may be another matter. And we've seen plenty of would-be mobile device players who've come along with clever ideas only to see them largely fail to take the market by storm - or even at all - largely because they weren't Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Siemens or Motorola.

However, we've requested a demo, and we'll let you know how it went in due course. In the meantime, you can read (a little) more here. ®

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