Sensing Surface Color and Material with the Front-Facing Camera of a Mobile Device


Abstract: SpeCam is a lightweight surface color and material sensing approach for mobile devices which only uses the front-facing camera and the display as a multi-spectral light source. We leverage the natural use of mobile devices (placing it face-down) to detect the material underneath and therefore infer the location or placement of the device. SpeCam can then be used to support discreet micro-interactions to avoid the numerous distractions that users daily face with today's mobile devices. Our two-parts study shows that SpeCam can i) recognize colors in the HSB space with 10 degrees apart near the 3 dominant colors and 4 degrees otherwise and ii) 30 types of surface materials with 99% accuracy. These findings are further supported by a spectroscopy study. Finally, we suggest a series of applications based on simple mobile micro-interactions suitable for using the phone when placed face-down.

Keywords: discreet interaction, material detection, surface detection


  • - Hui-Shyong Yeo, Juyoung Lee, Andrea Bianchi, David Harris-Birtill, and Aaron Quigley. 2017. SpeCam: sensing surface color and material with the front-facing camera of a mobile device. In Proceedings of the 19th International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction with Mobile Devices and Services (MobileHCI '17). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, Article 25, 1–9. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1145/3098279.3098541