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SkinTrack: Smartwatch Turns Skin Into TouchScreen

Posted in SmartWatch

SkinTrack Smartwatch Turns Skin Into TouchScreen — Researchers at Carnegie Mellon have used electrodes to turn your skin into a touchpad extension for wearables like smartwatches.

SkinTrack uses a signal-emitting ring worn on the finger to communicate with a sensing band attached to the watch. When the finger wearing the ring touches the skin, a high-frequency electrical signal spreads across your arm. It uses the distance between the ring and four pairs of electrodes in the watchband to triangulate the position of your finger in 2D space. “The great thing about SkinTrack is that it’s not obtrusive; watches and rings are items that people already wear every day,” said Yang Zhang, a first-year Ph.D. student at CMU who worked on the technology.

The system can sense continuous tracking, allowing you to doodle a picture for example. It can also sense discrete gestures like swipes or taps. The prototype built by the group as a proof of concept showed off a lot of interesting interactions. You can swipe up and down on your wrist to move between apps, then left or right to enter and exit a program. That is neat, but it basically just replicates what’s available already through your smartwatch screen.

The watch can also recognize hot key commands. Trace an “N” on your hand to open up your news app, for example, or an “S” to silence a phone call. Skin and screen can also be used to indicate different modes, with a screen swipe performing a slow scroll through an address book, and a skin swipe activating a rapid scroll.

For now there are no concrete plans to commercialize this technology, but given the heavy emphasis many tech giants have placed on the smartwatch category, this technology seems like a promising avenue for improving the usability of wearable devices without compromising style or battery life.

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