The University of Manitoba will receive over $9.5 million in funding over the next five years from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, announced May 21.
Dr. Pourang Irani, Associate Professor of Computer Science at U of M will receive $150,000 for he and his students’ new technology: turning portable devices into ultra-information-rich appliances.
"They’ve been around for a while but they’ve been very rudimentary," said Irani. "They’ve been used for very dedicated tasks like aviation."
In layman’s terms, an ultra–information-rich appliance can be anything from a cell phone, a watch or a pair of glasses, much like Google Glass. What is different about Irani’s work is that instead of depending on the touchscreen of a smartphone or tablet to use, the device will sense where the user’s hands are around the phone and the user can surf the phone that way depending on where his or her hands are.
Irani’s staff has also developed a 360-degree camera that sees where the user is at all times. It can also identify objects around the phone like monitors, or a pesky sign pole when performing the dangerous task of texting and walking.
All of this sounds very futuristic but Irani said it’s not that far away in the future.
"In the next two to three years," said Irani. "We will possibly see mobile devices with such sensing technology that will be able to catapult us into that sort of new space."
Because the mobile market moves so quickly, Irani would like to see his technology in people’s hands tomorrow.
"But it’s not up to us," said Irani. "We build the ideas, we build the examples, we show that such a technology can be fruitful, but now it’s up to companies to take this technology and spin them into something that can be mass produced."
If companies such as Microsoft, Apple, HTC, Research in Motion, or Google decide they would like to purchase the technology from the university it would mean putting U of M on the map in terms of mobile technology.
"It could mean great things," said Irani. "For a researcher such as myself, having people use my technology that I build, it would be just amazing."