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Soon you may be able to turn your skin to a touchpad

Speed News Desk | Updated on: 6 May 2016, 11:00 IST

Soon, you will be able to play Temple Run by simply swiping your finger across your arm. A team of researchers from Carnegie Mellon University has developed a new wearable technology that can turn the entire lower arm into a touchpad.

Called SkinTrack and developed by the Human-Computer Interaction Institute's Future Interfaces Group, the system allows for continuous touch tracking on the hands and arms. It also can detect touches at discrete locations on the skin, enabling functionality similar to buttons or slider controls.

Previous "skin to screen" approaches have employed flexible overlays, interactive textiles and projector/camera combinations that can be cumbersome.

In contrast, SkinTrack requires only that the user wear a special ring, which propagates a low-energy, high-frequency signal through the skin when the finger touches or nears the skin surface.

"The great thing about SkinTrack is that it's not obtrusive; watches and rings are items that people already wear every day," said researcher Yang Zhang.

"A major problem with smartwatches and other digital jewelry is that their screens are so tiny," said Gierad Laput.

"SkinTrack makes it possible to move interactions from the screen onto the arm, providing much larger interface," said researcher Chris Harrison.

How does SkinTrack work?

The user wears a ring that produces a high-frequency electrical signal. When the finger is brought close to skin, or touches the skin, a radio frequency signal is sent.

The researchers have assured that the technology is safe. There is no evidence to suggest 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.

The study will be presented at ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing.

-With ANI inputs

First published: 6 May 2016, 11:00 IST