Smartwatches are fickle things that are not helped by their very limited screen sizes. Unlike smartphones and tablets, which have seemingly gotten bigger and bigger each year to the point of unwieldy, smartwatches don’t have this luxury.
Skin as a touchscreen explained
Employing a ring worn on the finger as bridge between the smartwatch and the skin, the signal emitting ring senses movements of the finger on skin to process this information and send it to the smartwatch. The new tech was unveiled today by the Future Interfaces Group, a lab housed in Carnegie Mellon University and could be a game changer.
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The ring talks to four electrodes in the watchband of a smartwatch to work out where your finger is in the 2D space that is your skin and triangulates it then translates that position to the smartphones display. “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 part of the group in his first year of Ph.D. studies at the university.
Given the limited screen space available on say, an Apple Watch, this tech would allow smartwatch owners to play Angry Birds on their watches whilst giving themselves a bit of a tickle. In theory, as long as you have the ring, you can swipe without issue, move apps from your watch to parts of your wrist for permanent “placement.” Essentially, the tech is giving you a much bigger screen than your watch affords.
Now, for the cool stuff. This ring would allow you to customize a number of hot key commands so that drawing an “E” on your wrist would give you your email, or the drawing of an “N” could tell your watch and phone “NO” to a phone call. Your hot keys, so you decide.
All that said, the problem, if there is one lies in the powering of the ring that is essential to the tech.
The group says, “keeping the ring powered up is a challenge. Signals also tend to change as the device is worn for long periods, thanks to factors such as sweat and hydration and the fact the body is in constant motion.” while this is a problem, your health is not a worry.
The technology is safe. No evidence suggests that the radio frequency signals used by SkinTrack have any health effects. The body is commonly excited by daily appliances — everything from the tiny amounts of current drawn from the finger by touchscreens to the electromagnetic noise emanating from fluorescent lights — with no ill effects,” said Yang.