SkinTrack solves a problem that smartwatches created. Smartwatches have small screens and are difficult to navigate around. They are useful and have the potential to be an excellent digital device. Figuring out how to improve smartwatch functionality while keeping them unobtrusive has been a challenge.
SkinTrack Technology Idea
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have had the idea of making the skin a touch pad. The SkinTrack is a ring that goes on the finger. A low-energy, high-frequency signal moves through the finger when it’s near the skin. This signal means the SkinTrack can be used as a touch screen or as extra buttons.
According to Gierard Laput, a Ph.D. student in HCII, “A major problem with smartwatches and another digital jewelry is that their screens are so tiny. 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.”
Improving Smartwatch Functionality
In the watches strap, electrodes read where the 6 and 12 o’clock positions are on the watch. The electrodes use the 3 and 9 o’clock positions to tell where the finger is positioned. According to the researchers, there is a 99% accuracy with reading the position of the watch and finger. There is a mean error with the touch of 7.6 millimetres. Compared to other on-body finger-tracking systems, this is better than average. The error rate is close to the accuracy of touch screens.
This means that the interface of the SkinTrack enlarges the smartwatch. This leads to improved functionality and the possibility of different apps. Some functions include a game controller and number pad. Drawing and using a map on a screen are being worked on. Using the finger like a cursor to highlight or use a device are being refined.
Challenges to the SkinTrack ring are how to power the device. Wearing it for long period results in sweat and hydration. The constant motion of the body is also a consideration for researchers in making this device a consumer reality.
The technology has proven to be safe for the skin and to have no bad health effects. There are no more electromagnetic currents going through the skin than as usual. What comes from the SkinTrack ring is exciting, as smartwatches have a lot of potential to fulfill.