THAW: Hybrid Interactions with Phones on Computer Screens.

Imagine being able to transfer files between your smartphone and laptop by simply holding your phone’s camera to your computer screen, or playing a game where the action moves flawlessly from screen to screen. That’s the concept behind THAW, a new project at the MIT Media Lab.

A collaboration between students Sang-won Leigh of the Fluid Interfaces Group and Philipp Schoessler from the Tangible Media Group, THAW allows large displays and handheld devices to work together in perfect harmony.

“We live in an increasingly digital world, but that world is fractured between many screens and interfaces,” Schoessler recently told Fast Company. “The question we wanted to try to answer with THAW was how can we combine these computer interfaces and screens into a single seamless experience.”

THAW’s software places a rainbow colored grid on your computer screen, which can be detected by an iPhone’s camera lens, similar to the way a computer mouse works. The devices use a wireless connection to transfer information and track the camera’s position.

The duo put together a video to demonstrate their technology. In one scene, a user drags files from their desktop computer and drops them onto their phone. Later, a user plays a game similar to Super Mario Brothers on their laptop—and then transfers the game play to their phone, using the touchscreen to interact with the game’s content.

The team predicts that game developers will be among the first to embrace the technology, although they see great value in THAW’s file-sharing capabilities—and applications they haven’t yet imagined. As Schoessler explained to Wired’s Liz Stinson, “We’ve really just touched the surface of the applications—I think it would be nice to see what other people might come up with.”

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