Sparsh touches cloud for mobile copy and paste

Intriguing cloud-based copy-and-paste tool out of MIT could find home in smartphones of the future, making information sharing between devices that much easier.

Matt Hickey
With more than 15 years experience testing hardware (and being obsessed with it), Crave freelance writer Matt Hickey can tell the good gadgets from the great. He also has a keen eye for future technology trends. Matt has blogged for publications including TechCrunch, CrunchGear, and most recently, Gizmodo. Matt is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CBS Interactive. E-mail Matt.
Matt Hickey
2 min read

Why didn't I think of this? MIT Media Lab

Smartphones have been around for at least several years now, but they still have certain limitations. Despite having a plethora of wireless technologies built-in--Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 3G, etc.--there's no simple way to transfer "clippings" of data from one device to another. But a new research project at MIT called Sparsh is aiming to fix that oversight.

Sparsh (the Hindi word for "touch") isn't an app, at least not in the way we generally use the word. It's a tool that's supposed to be part of a mobile operating system, like "undo" or "select all," running within apps at all times. It creates a virtual cloud-based clipboard where any data, like a phone number or photograph, can temporarily live until it's "pasted" to another device.

For it to work, at least two devices need to be Sparsh-enabled. A user wanting to share data becomes, in concept, an avatar for a copy-and-paste-like function. The person touches data on a device, such as a photo or text, and Sparsh sends it to the cloud. The same person then touches another device, and presto! The relevant information is pasted in as if it had been copied from the same machine.

Copying pictures from a phone to a tablet computer. MIT Media Lab

Sparsh isn't the only tool for transferring small amounts of device-to-device data on the scene. Indeed, a popular iPhone app called Bump allows people to trade photos, apps, contact info, and even music from one phone to another simply by bumping the devices together.

Bump is very cool, but it requires both the sender and recipient to be running the app. In addition, it's not open with what it can send or where it can send it--it only works from phone to phone, and while there are many options for things it can send, there are more things it simply can't. Sparsh aims to live in the devices we use at the operating-system level, meaning it would seem intuitive to use and be available within any app for almost any type of data.

Right now, Sparsh is just a concept project by Pranav Mistry, a Ph.D. candidate at MIT's Media Research Lab, but we think it's intriguing and potentially useful enough that OS makers could integrate it into next-gen mobile operating systems. With rumors that the forthcoming iPhone 5 (among other handsets) will make extensive use of the proverbial cloud, it follows that wireless copy-and-paste functions should make an appearance, and Sparsh seems to have a clean head start.

See it in action in a video below.