Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Browser Acceleration and Orientation

Perhaps the most revolutionary thing about both the iPhone and the Wii is their ability to detect acceleration and orientation. The iPhone automatically converts from landscape to portrait mode depending on which way you hold it, and the Wii was designed to allow tennis strokes, golf shots or boxing matches simply by moving the control.

Ideally, the same functionality should be available on the web. You can imagine a browser that

  • Rotates between landscape and portrait mode, depending on device orientation
  • Scrolls up, down, left and right based on device acceleration

But what if the web developer wanted access to the same information? You can imagine websites that

  • Display maps, orientated to the direction the device is pointing at
  • Provide games based on "pointing", e.g. golf games
  • Provide games based on "moving", e.g. tennis games
The web developer will want to be able to access acceleration and orientation information, and use it to alter HTML, SVG or Flash.

Unfortunately, there's no standard for this on the internet. There is, however, a fairly obvious place where it could go - the javascript event object. In the same way that this object stores the current mouse location (for devices with mice), you can imagine it also storing x, y, and z axis acceleration and orientation (for devices with accelerometers and gyroscopes).

One interesting question concerns privacy. Does it matter that someone could track the orientation or acceleration of your phone, if you were logged on to their website?

Personally, I can't see this happening soon - the demand just isn't there yet. But once phone browsing takes off, after two or three years, it will be very interesting to see how this field develops.

In the meantime, the W3C should look at extending their standards to allow for acceleration and orientation. And phone browser providers, such as Opera, should consider upgrading their browsers to take advantage of the latest in user interface design.

1 comment:

stelt said...

don't forget multi-touch and more sensitivity levels than just the binary yes/no