Astro HQ, the company behind a drawing app Astropad, has designed its latest app to turn the iPad’s camera into a button.

Apple has been heading towards a minimalistic design of iPads and iPhones, first removing the headphone jack from the iPhone and then the home button. But some companies want more buttons, and one app has found an ingenious way to add one.

Astro HQ, the company behind a drawing app Astropad, has designed its latest app to turn the iPad’s camera into a button. The feature will be part of Luna, a new app that turns your iPad into a wireless Mac display.

“When we ran out of buttons to hide our software’s UI behind, it really forced us to use our imagination,” Savannah Reising, form Astro HQ, said in a new blog post. “Instead of squeezing UI in where it didn’t fit, we built a new button to conceal it: it’s called the Camera Button.”

If you have the app installed on the iPad, it works by bringing up panel when you tap the camera. Then, when you tap again, it goes away. It measures the light coming into the camera, so that covering up the camera with your finger blocks all light, generating a response from the iPad.

The problem in using the camera as a button means it has to be on the whole time, which might drain the battery and also brings up some security issues.

“We made it a design goal from the beginning to ensure that it doesn’t affect battery life,” says Reising. “This meant writing very efficient code based on algorithms that prioritised energy efficiency. After the code was written, we optimised it meticulously to eliminate any bottlenecks. Today, the Camera Button requires less than 1% CPU to run.”

The company also addressed the privacy concerns. It says the images the camera sees are anonymised by being blurred to the extent that nobody could tell what they are. The data is also never sent anywhere.

But if you are still worried about using the camera, there are other options. “Even though using the Camera Button is an optional setting in Luna, we understand that some users may not be comfortable with this feature,” says Reising. “That’s why we also programmed the iPad volume buttons to have the same functionality as the Camera Button.”

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