Blowable User Interface

October 24, 2007 at 7:13 pm 16 comments

BLUI imageI just got back from presenting a paper at UIST, a conference that I would describe as a forum for innovative sexy user interfaces. One of the more original talks I attended was by a Georgia Tech student who managed to create a blowable interface on a standard laptop. He takes an ordinary laptop (with no hardware add-ons), blows on the screen, and the laptop identifies where he blew. Seems impossible?

How it works: when the screen is blown, it creates a bit of sound that the microphone picks up, Using a Fast Fourier Transform to create a vector of amplitudes and phase shifts, the system then matches a “blow” (as opposed to a click) with pre-classified vectors using k-nearest neighbor. The best vector match is used to determine where on the screen the user was blowing. During evaluation on a laptop, it was 100% accurate on a 3X3 grid, 95% accurate on a 4X4 grid, and quickly degraded after that. This is pretty good considering you’re blowing on a laptop screen.

One application of this would be birthday cards sent over email, where the recipient could blow out the candles. Or, even an electronic harmonica if the accuracy were improved.

Patel told me on a shuttle ride that he discovered this by accident one day while trying to blow dust off his screen with his sound recorder on.

Given that few people would actually perform the embarrassing act of blowing on their laptop while people were around, I’d give this 10/10 for originality and 4/10 for actual usefulness.


Patel, S & Abowd, G. (2007). BLUI: Low-cost Localized Blowable User Interfaces. Proceedings from UIST ’07: ACM Symposium on User interface Software and Technology, 217 – 220. [PDF]


Entry filed under: blow, uist, user interfaces.

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16 Comments Add your own

  • 1. iScheme  |  October 24, 2007 at 7:39 pm

    You know what would be really cool is if you could blow on the screen and your files would be blown around. I’m one of those people will cluttered desktops so at least I’d have some space to put new files where I can find them again.

  • 2. Ashley  |  November 7, 2007 at 4:13 pm

    The blowing out the birthday candles is a really cute idea. But hopefully they could add the blowing on the screen with computers that do have hardware add ons and hopefully to any type of computer some day.

  • 3. Robert  |  November 7, 2007 at 4:14 pm

    That is cool! If only they could affordably have an eye tracking system, so that you don’t have to manually scroll.

  • 4. McKensy  |  November 15, 2007 at 4:29 am

    Man – this is very interesting – I work daily with people with dissabilities and I can imagine this to be a very usefull aid in using a computer for some of them.
    Thumbs up!

  • 5. jake  |  March 16, 2008 at 7:11 pm

    ok iv read about this so much where can i download it

  • 6. Eric  |  July 24, 2008 at 3:23 am

    I would give 10/10 for originality and 1/10 for usefulness. But that was indeed pretty cool!
    Well sometimes we could just invent stuff for fun, not always for utility. =)

  • 7. Eric  |  February 3, 2009 at 12:58 am

    It would be awsome if one cud tap on the screen instead of blowing, that way the computer would be a touch screen!

  • 8. Bart Cart  |  May 25, 2009 at 3:24 am

    That’s clever. At first I thought it would be retarded to buy additional stuff just for that. But if all you need is a mic it sounds really great.

  • 9. Odchudzanie  |  June 26, 2009 at 8:20 am

    This is so smart! Of course it’s not like anyone’s going to use it for everyday tasks (would be pretty exhausting) but as a novelty thing used in some kids games it might be pretty nice actualy.

  • 10. Genius  |  June 26, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    A good improvement in user interaction with the hardware. I think there can be many more uses for this blow type interface. For example, instead of pressing F5 or right click>refresh, user can just blow on the screen to refresh desktop or opened application :) . depending upon how much they have to spend on this blow detection technology, this can be useful. however i dont think this blow technique can be used to do any thing more useful than an single layer command initialization. may be anyone else has any ideas ???

  • 11. doradztwo  |  September 30, 2009 at 9:10 am

    I think this invention suck. Non pun intended. By the way always is nice to hear about new ways of manipulate computer. With pleasure i would trade my mouse for something more convenience.

  • 12. johnny  |  March 12, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    This application already exists on the Nintendo DS. There are games where you move around balloons and bubbles by “blowing” on the screen.

    (The DS also allows voice input for some games, so I think the “sensor” being used to feel the blown air is actually the built-in microphone.)

  • 13. Simon Reed | Java  |  November 8, 2010 at 12:45 am

    its really cool. I need a laptop or screen where pages can be scrolled down by the blink of the eye.

  • 14. Juraj Vysvader  |  July 31, 2011 at 7:38 am

    I don’t know to what it would be useful.

  • 15. NISM  |  September 15, 2012 at 1:49 am

    Wow, the blowable user interface would be imagine ..i wanna use this..

  • 16. benchfolks  |  June 8, 2017 at 6:11 am

    This has been the most helpful article I can find on majors!


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