What if you could detect touches on a tablet that aren’t on the screen area? Well, you can. Sushu Zhang, a software engineer at Intel, has written a tutorial about using the accelerometer built in to a tablet to detect when someone taps one of its sides. The technique works by first measuring the way the accelerometer data is affected in all three planes when the device is tapped on different sides, and then using that data as a signature to identify those taps in the active application.
It’s an interesting exercise that means a tablet can acquire four new virtual buttons without any screen space being sacrificed. I wonder whether new usage conventions will arise from this?
The idea is applicable much more broadly than for tablets too: Ultrabook devices are set to incorporate accelerometers later this year, to enable creative new ways to control a computer. (If you have any bright ideas, you can still win huge exposure for your app by entering Intel’s Ultrabook Experience competition). In the meantime, learn how to use the accelerometer to detect taps here.