PCs continue to get more powerful, and mobile smartphones continue to
gain functionality that could have never been imagined just a few years
ago. But little attention in the mainstream is paid to how we control
all the gizmos that we encounter in our lives. The mouse and keyboard
combo has been the go-to tandem for years now, and the touchpad has
been another stereotypical choice for controlling a cursor when space
came at a premium. Brain-control interfaces have been reserved for
universities and labs, while anything more elaborate than a mere
multi-touch display is seen as too wild for Joe Six Pack.
Hopefully, the tide is turning. Over the past one or two years, we have
seen engineers at TED detail a "Sixth Sense" type of device that would
intertwine the digital and "real" worlds, providing a heads-up view of
additional information related to anything we were currently looking
at. Now, a team from Carnegie Mellon University and Microsoft are
working together to make something you already have plenty of be more
useful when it comes to controlling devices. "Skinput" is the novel
name for a new physical interaction design which is aimed at using your
skin as an input interface, primarily for mobile devices.
The technology marries two main systems: the "ability to detect the
ultralow-frequency sound produced by tapping the skin with a finger,
and the microchip-sized "pico" projectors now found in some
cellphones." The whole solution would project an image of a keyboard or
icons onto one's arm, and then any press on the skin would react to
whatever icon was present where the finger touched. An acoustic
detector (integrated into an armband) is also a vital part of making it
all work, but it's still very early on in the development process.
Currently, the system is still a prototype, but we could definitely see
this growing to become the next great cellphone or iPod remote, or
maybe even the television remote that you don't have to grab. But we
would hope the designers could force inputs to be recognized by only
your fingers; wouldn't want your kids jumping all over you in a fight
to change the channel
, would you?