The new app uses your phone’s display and front-facing camera to detect the color and the material of the surface it’s on.

If you recall, a team of researchers from the University of St. Andrews brought some impressive improvements to Google’s Project Soli last year: called RadarCat, the technology uses radio waves which bounce off objects to create very specific patterns, similar to how bats navigate in darkness using echolocation. RadarCat not only identifies hand gestures but is also able to distinguish apples from oranges and full glasses from empty glasses. Well, the same team of researchers who showed us a glimpse of future mobile technology is back, this time with an app called SpeCam.

SpeCam essentially uses the device’s front-facing camera and display as a multi-spectral light source to examine the surface on which it’s placed. The obvious advantage here is that no additional hardware or sensing infrastructures are needed to produce precise location information. As you can see from the video above, the app is capable of detecting not just the color of the surface on which the device is placed but also its material – from white cardboard boxes to brown tiles. It can even distinguish between white porcelain and white ceramic.

When you can’t find your phone inside your home, it could notify you that it’s on black table wood, making the search process a whole lot easier.

High precision location offers several possibilities of application: for instance, you could program it so that your phone starts playing music once it is placed on the kitchen island. Or when you lose your phone inside the house, it could notify you that it’s on black table wood, making the search process a whole lot easier.

SpeCam isn’t commercially available, but you can read more about the project here. What other applications do you think SpeCam can be used for? Let us know by leaving a comment below!