Smartwatches put a powerful computer on your wrist, but at the cost of a little bitty screen and keyboard. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute’s Future Interfaces Group are working on that, turning your arm into an interactive surface.
SmartTrack turns your forearm into a swiping, touching input device from wrist to elbow. Unlike other similar systems, there’s no camera involved. SmartTrack users wear a ring that sends a signal via high-frequency AC current to your finger. When your finger touches your arm, the signal moves along your arm and interacts with electronics in the watch’s wristband.
CMU Ph.D. candidates Gierad Laput talked to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review about it:
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. So our question was: How do you make the smartwatch bigger without actually making it bigger?”
The CMU research team says the device can accurately determine when a finger touches skin 99% of the time, and can resolve touch location with a mean error of 7.6mm. Here’s how it looks:
You need to keep the ring charged and the signals can vary if you wear when it is worn a long time, due to sweat and motion. So keep your hands dry and think of it as the One Ring: keep it in your pocket and wear only when you really need it.