Microsoft phone makes in-call lookups easier

Audio feedback gives simple diary information during calls

The latest mobile-phone research from Microsoft may be bordering on bizarre, but it does something we don't normally associate with the Redmond leviathan by turning a familiar technology practically on its head.

Patrick Baudisch of Microsoft Research is currently tackling that perennial problem of retrieving information from a phone when you're already using it to make a call.

Hang on a minute...

Instead of breaking off the conversation to access an onscreen schedule, he wants to use audio feedback to allow the phone to quickly reveal the information without interrupting the call.

Article continues below

The 'blindSight' prototype phone he has built looks like an upside-down handset and features buttons on the rear side of where the screen would normally be. This makes them easy to press with the hand that holds the phone during a call.

Hands-free anyone?

As for what those presses achieve, that's where things get a little sketchy. Baudisch's demo video shows how requests for data made through certain button pushes result in a sequence of ticks and beeps that describe busy and free slots on the schedule.

It's a nice idea, especially as only one end of the call can hear the audio feedback, but it does seem that focusing on and deciphering the sequence of sounds might require one to, well, stop talking and concentrate.

The world will find out more at the Computer-Human Interaction conference in Italy in April.