New Tech Turns Your Skin Into User Interface

By Ashley McGuire , May 06, 2016 11:10 AM EDT

 team of researchers at Carnegie Mellon has developed a technology that allows and turns user's skin into an interface for gadgets.

Users find it difficult to navigate through smartwatch apps on a relatively tiny screen. Tablets and smartphones have become bigger over the years, but the gadgets people wear on their wrists still need to remain small to look fashionable.

A team at a research lab within Carnegie Mellon University called the Future Interfaces Group has designed a new solution to this problem. The scientists have found a way of transforming the skin of your hand and arm into a touchscreen for your smartwatch.

According to The Verge, the system developed by the scientists uses a signal-emitting ring that communicates with a sensing band attached to the watch. A high-frequency electrical signal spreads across your arm when the skin is touched by the finger wearing the ring.

The system uses four pairs of electrodes in the watchband. Based on the distance between the ring and the watchband, the system is able to triangulate the position of your finger in 2D space.

Yang Zhang, a first-year Ph.D. student at CMU who participated in the project to design the new technology, said that one great advantage of this system called SkinTrack is that it is not obtrusive. People already wear rings and watches every day.

The system can sense discrete gestures like taps or swipes, and also, it can sence continuous tracking. The SkinTrack prototype was built by the research group as a proof of concept.

One of the interesting applications of the system is to use your skin as a canvas. You can create shortcuts back to the apps on your watch by dragging applications off the watch and placing them on parts of your arm.

For instance, you can place your Twitter app on your elbow and access it quickly with just a tap from the finger wearing the ring or you can use the watch as a gaming device. According to Computerworld, the SkinTrack can also be used as a dial pad, to zoom in and out of onscreen maps and scroll through lists. The system can also recognize hot key commands.

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