Trying to get to your phone whilst it’s buried at the bottom of your bag is not the way to make friends with your local librarian. If researchers at Deutsche Telekom (DT) in Berlin, Germany get their way though, soon a simple hand gesture could be all you need to silence your device quickly and effortlessly. New Scientist reports that the researchers have developed software that gives phone owners the means to control basic cell phone operations with hand movements. Using a standard magnet the software, dubbed ‘MagiTact’, may be applied to any phone with a compass sensor (now the norm on smartphones such as the Apple iPhone or the Google Nexus One).

The magnetic technology could mean touch-free call rejection and could also be used to flip through on-screen documents or control map zoom without dabbing on the screen and obscuring the map view.

MagiTact software works by rapidly tracking changes to the magnetic field surrounding the cell phone... and of course, you need to be wearing or holding a magnet.

There’s still a bit of fine-tuning need on DT’s behalf, though. Early testing of MagiTact found it to have 90 per cent accuracy. The other 10 per cent of the time, users were presumably either gesturing without any response from their device, or getting frustrated with misinterpreted hand movements.

International Conference on Intelligent User Interfaces via New Scientist.