SunBox: Screen-To-camera communication with ambient light

Miguel Chavez Tapia*, Talia Xu, Zehang Wu, Marco Zuñiga Zamalloa

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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A recent development in wireless communication is the use of optical shutters and smartphone cameras to create optical links solely from ambient light. At the transmitter, a liquid crystal display (LCD) modulates ambient light by changing its level of transparency. At the receiver, a smartphone camera decodes the optical pattern. This LCD-To-camera link requires low-power levels at the transmitter, and it is easy to deploy because it does not require modifying the existing lighting infrastructure. The system, however, provides a low data rate, of just a few tens of bps. This occurs because the LCDs used in the state-of-The-Art are slow single-pixel transmitters. To overcome this limitation, we introduce a novel multi-pixel display. Our display is similar to a simple screen, but instead of using embedded LEDs to radiate information, it uses only the surrounding ambient light. We build a prototype, called SunBox, and evaluate it indoors and outdoors with both, artificial and natural ambient light. Our results show that SunBox can achieve a throughput between 2 kbps and 10 kbps using a low-end smartphone camera with just 30 FPS. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first screen-To-camera system that works solely with ambient light.

Original languageEnglish
Article number46
Number of pages26
JournalProceedings of the ACM on Interactive, Mobile, Wearable and Ubiquitous Technologies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • backscattering
  • ferroelectric liquid crystal over silicon
  • screen-camera communication
  • visible light communication


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