Computers in the future will know whether the user is in a meeting or jogging in the park, and will be able to adjust their communications accordingly.
A research project by Intel and the University of Washington is using a set of eight sensors to collect data on ambient light, infrared light, body movements, sound volumes, air humidity and air pressure.
The sensors allow the device to determine whether a person is walking, jogging or climbing stairs, for example.
Combined with data from the subject's agenda, a computer should be able to detect whether someone is in a executive meeting or merely chatting at the water cooler.
A mobile phone or personal computer could use that information to manage an individual's communications, letting through only important calls during a meeting or forwarding all calls to voicemail during sports activities.
The device also has applications in personal fitness and healthcare, Tanzeem Choudhury, a researcher at Intel's Seattle lab, said during Research at Intel Day at the chipmaker's corporate headquarters earlier this week.
"Lots of people are wearing pedometers today. The frustration often is that you get less credit when you run or when you walk up a flight of stairs," Choudhury told vnunet.com.
"Here it can keep track of those things for you. You can have a much better system to log those things for you."
Medial software could use the sensor to look for behavioural changes. A slowdown in walking pace, for instance, could signal a deterioration in a person's health that would otherwise go unnoticed.
demonstration of the technology by Choudhury is available on the
Silicon Valley Sleuth blog.
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