At the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science at Northwestern University, a research group has developed a unique new way for your computer to detect whether or not a user is present, and are presently looking for test subjects willing to try it out and see just how much power it can save.
Using your computer’s existing hardware, the microphone and speakers more precisely, echolocation software will determine whether you’re watching a movie (present) or getting a snack (away). Discussions among the group led to the idea of using sonar, as well. Developing software that, when the user is not using the mouse or keyboard, plays a tone at a high frequency and records the tone’s echo, the computer then has the ability to process the tone and filter out everything except that frequency and detects any variance. The software can detect movements from up to eight feet away, and if it determines that the user is not present, it turns off the screen. The sonar isn’t reactivated until there is mouse movement.
Currently, the researchers are looking for users to download the software and test it, giving them data on how much power it actually saves. The software will log when a user stops using the mouse and keyboard, and also log the results from the sonar. The results, in the form of numbers, are completely anonymous. Researchers can’t listen to recordings, but only view the data from the recordings.
To download the software and participate in the study, you can go to empathicsystems.org. Courtesy of mccormick.northwestern.edu