Carnegie Mellon Researchers Turn Your Skin Into An Extension of Your Smartwatch
The Smartwatch is not, technically a new idea but the devices we have come to know now as wearable tech are certainly a refreshing concept. And while this industry is still relatively young, the technology is already growing at quite the rapid pace. And even though many people love the idea, smartwatches can be uncomfortably large—to house all the technology—but have small screens, which can limit how well they function.
“A major problem with smart watches and other digital jewelry is that their screens are so tiny,” explains Gierad Laput, who is a Ph.D student at the Carnegie Mellon University Human-Computer Interaction Institute. Also a member of the Future Interfaces Group—a University research team—he goes on to say, “Not only is the interaction area small, but your finger actually blocks much of the screen when you’re using it. Input tends to be pretty basic, confined to a few buttons or some directional swipes.”
This new idea, though, uses four sensors—two in the watch band and two vertically placed along the watch face—to track the x- and y-axis movements of your finger along the space of your arm; both to the left and to the right of the device. You must also note, however, that you have to wear a ring on the opposite hand in order for the device to properly function. If that is not a problem for you, you will likely find that the device is capable of quite a lot of incredible gestures that will certainly enhance the overall smartwatch experience.
In addition, the researchers note that the ring needs a battery and the health of that battery is an obstacle, at least for now.
The university comments, “The system has some limitations. Keeping the ring powered up is a challenge. Signals also tend to change as the device is worn for long periods, thanks to factors such as sweat and hydration and the fact that the body is in constant motion.”
Also, Carnegie Mellon University makes sure to advise that the researchers believe this technology is safe for the user; and that includes the high-frequency signals emitted by the ring.
“The technology is safe,” CMU says. “No evidence suggests that the radio frequency signals used by SkinTrack have any health effects. The body is commonly excited by daily appliances — everything from the tiny amounts of current drawn from the finger by touchscreens to the electromagnetic noise emanating from fluorescent lights — with no ill effects.”