SkinTrack Technology Turns your Arm into a TouchScreen


Researchers in Dr. Chris Harrison’s Future Interfaces Group at Carnegie Mellon University have created a way for your arm and hand to act as a touchpad for your smartwatch. Due to the small screen on a smartwatch, scrolling and swiping can be changeling. This new technology, called SkinTrack, makes using a smartwatch a whole lot easier—and more fun.Read more about this exciting new technology in The Verge’s article: New tech turns your skin into a touchscreen for your smartwatch.

Here is an excerpt from the story:

“The system 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 really cool stuff happens when you start using your skin as a canvas. You can drag apps off the watch and place them on parts of your arm, creating shortcuts back to the app. Put your Twitter app on your elbow, for example, and you can quickly access it with a tap on that spot from the finger wearing the ring. Adding all that new real estate as part of your touchscreen also opens up possibilities for the watch as a gaming device, for example a long pull on the slingshot in Angry Birds.”

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

Photo credit: Future Interfaces Group