Tiny smartwatch screens are impressive wearable tech, with apps mimicking famous watch faces as well as smart phone add-ons like fitness tracking, phone and text alerts. However, even top-tier smartwatches seem made for users with delicate fingers and a feather-light touch — full-fingered folks need not apply.
A new way of using these devices has been developed by the Future Interfaces Group lab at Carnegie Mellon and it's striking in its cleverness and simplicity. It's called SkinTrack and it turns your arm into a touchscreen. Check out the video here:
The complete SkinTrack system requires additional equipment at the moment, which some might find a sticking point if it ends up a fully-developed product. A ring essentially talks to the watch in such a way that a web of signals between the pair tracks the user's finger along the surface of the arm around the watch.
Ben Popper, writing at The Verge, quoted Carnegie Mellon Ph.D. student Yang Zhang, who addressed the issue of the ring by saying SkinTrack won't be "obtrusive; watches and rings are items that people already wear every day."
Popper also notes that the system isn't without its issues:
There are still some kinks to work out. According to the lab, "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." They do stress, however, that despite the way it sounds, " The technology is safe. No evidence suggests that the radio frequency signals used by SkinTrack have any health effects..."
While Future Interfaces Group apparently isn't thinking about putting this system on the market yet, we have no doubt an identical or at least very similar system is just around the corner.
It will be most welcome, too, especially if it means our slick Apple Watch can become something more useful than a faster way than usual to reject calls from that one ex who isn't ready to give up yet.