Japan's Casio has released an experimental app for the iPhone and iPad that encodes and sends data using colors.
The company's "PicapiCamera" app presents a set of icons to the user, which can be selected along with a short message to be sent. Once these are chosen, the app displays a multihued blinking dot on screen -- an encoding of the data using visible colors.
A separate device can then scan in multiple dots through its camera using the same app. In the picture taken by the camera, the blinking dots are replaced by the icons and messages, and this picture can then be sent back to everyone that displayed a dot. The information is exchanged using only the data sent by the flashing colors.
"We are sending a basic ID code using visible light transmission. The camera then captures this and the code captured by the camera is combined with location information. This is sent to a server in the cloud, which then sends the picture information," said Nobuo Iizuka, a research manager at Casio.
Casio, which previously showed the technology at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this year, has released the app mainly as a way to get feedback from users, Iizuka said. The technology is based on the company's research into the developing field of "Li-Fi," or sending information using visible light. With specialized equipment, this can achieve data transfers at hundreds of megabits per second, but Casio wants to use the technology for existing consumer devices.
Devices and apps that allow users to tweak digital pictures and add glyphs and messages once they've been taken are now common. Casio, known for its digital cameras and mobile phones, wants to experiment with technologies that allow users to digitally alter their appearance -- in this case choosing personalized icons -- before the shutter button is pressed.
Casio is also considering using the color-encoding method as a way to exchange personal contact information between devices, without the need to first trade an email or phone number, similar to existing iPhone apps like Bump.
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