There’s only so much you can do with a tiny smartwatch screen on your wrist. Wearable devices still serve more as smartphone accessories than standalone gadgets, but a new invention could change that forever.
SkinTrack is a totally new way to control your smartwatch by tracking finger motions on your skin. It requires a special ring and a band with four built-in sensors that sits under your smartwatch. The technology was developed by Future Interfaces Group, a research lab at Carnegie Mellon University. It’s still a work in progress, but the results are already pretty amazing.
Using taps, swipes and longer gestures, you can scroll through lists of apps and other menus, swipe right to select and swipe left to go back. Special software developed to showcase the technology also offers the ability to launch an app by tracing the first letter on your skin (example: M for music). You can even create shortcuts along your arm to launch specific apps with a quick well-placed tap.
There are some limitations to SkinTrack. The group is still working to improve battery life for the ring, which looks pretty bulky in the demo video. Sweat and other liquids may also block the sensors and alter the signal.
Still, if the group can perfect this technology, it could be a real gamechanger for wearable devices. Turning your entire arm into a touchpad could open up tons of new possibilities. It might even help turn the smartwatch into your primary gadget, or at least convince you to leave your phone in your pocket more often.