EM-Sense Enabled Smartwatch Detects Ordinary Objects

EM Sense Fellows Highlight Chris H.

Researchers in Dr. Chris Harrison’s Human-Computer Interaction lab at Carnegie Mellon University and Disney Research have devised a way for smart devices to sense everyday objects. The team modified a smartwatch to include EM-Sense technology which recognizes the electromagnetic (EM) signature of an object that a wearer touches and presents back information about it. Read more about this exciting new technology in Wired’s article: EM-Sense Enabled Smartwatch Can Detect When you Touch a Doorknob.

Here is an excerpt from the story:

“It sounds like magic, but the technology is straightforward. Most electromechanical objects—electric toothbrushes, your laptop’s trackpad, power tools—emit electromagnetic signals when used. Things like ladders and door handles, which aren’t electric but are conductive also can emit an electromagnetic signature by receiving the EM radiation present in the surrounding environment. The human body is similarly conductive; touch an object that emits electromagnetic noise and that object’s signal courses through your body.

Now here’s the crucial bit: Different objects emit slightly different levels of electromagnetic noise. The team embedded its smartwatch prototype with a modified radio chip that can sense these low-band electromagnetic signals. When strapped to your wrist, the watch uses a conducting electrode to sense the signal passing through your body. That signal is sent to a radio chip, and converted into digital data. By matching incoming signals to a library of electromagnetic signatures, the watch can identify what you’re touching, in real time.”

Click here to read the full scientific paper about this fascinating work.

Photo credit: Gierad Laput