New technology turns your skin into a touchscreen for smartwatch interaction


“The technology enables continuous touch tracking on the skin, with the help of a ring that emits a high-frequency AC signal”

Human-computer interaction has always been one of the focal points of technology, with physical keypads making way for touchscreen displays and even gesture-based interactions. Taking this tech a notch higher is a new innovation from Future Interfaces Group – a research lab within Carnegie Mellon University – which essentially converts your skin into a touchscreen panel.


The wearable system called SkinTrack enables continuous touch tracking on the skin, with the help of a ring (that constantly emits a high-frequency AC signal) and a sensing wrist band with multiple electrodes. The distance between the ring and the wrist band is triangulated with the electrode positions, to pin point the tip of the finger in a 2-dimensional space. The technology is also claimed to be non-obtrusive, easily passing through watches and rings.


SkinTrack’s biggest advantage is in the fact that it can constantly track the ring, which allows people to draw and doodle. A demonstration actually shows a person playing Angry Birds on a smartwatch by pulling the catapult – all on the skin. Besides continuous tracking, the SkinTrack also supports gesture-based interactions – swipe up and down on the wrist to move between applications and trace letters on the skin (just as you would trace letters on a smartphone display to directly open up applications) for specific apps. And if all that wasn’t impressive enough, the technology can actually enable users to dial numbers while tapping on the back of their wrist.


While the accuracy as of now is claimed to be 99%, the main obstacles according to the researchers arose when the ring was placed on a different finger, or the skin was moist – thereby reducing the sensing stability over time. Another issue is powering the signal emitting ring. But we believe that given the amount of momentum in the wearable space, interaction mechanisms such as these will catch on soon enough.

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