Researchers develop skin-touch gesture user-interface for wearables

Anyone who has used a smartwatch, whether it’s the Moto 360, Apple Watch or the Gear S2, knows that navigating a minuscule touchscreen is not easy, especially when trying to accomplish precise tasks.

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University’s Future Interface group have invented a new solution to this issue called SkinTrack, the first wearable user navigation interface to utilize gestures performed with the back of your forearm and hand, to navigate the watch’s OS.

“We can spill interaction onto the smalls screen, while simultaneously enabling a larger area for interaction. Our approach still works even when the skin is covered with clothing,” says the project’s YouTube video.

A ring worn on the index finger emits an electronic signal and communicates with the watch’s band, allowing it to measure the hand’s position, distance, and track finger motion, all in real time. To demonstrate the technology, Carnegie Mellon researchers created their own custom smartwatch prototype, a device resembling a cheaper looking version of the Apple Watch.

Researchers pinned virtual applications to different sections of their forearm, allowing them to make phone calls, play music and even create special gestures, such as writing an A to access the smartwatch’s contact list.

While fascinating, the practical application of SkinTrack would likely be somewhat limited, though simple gestures could be useful when it comes to activating specific applications. Imagine being able to activate Transit App’s Apple Watch Glance by tapping your forearm?

Other obstacles to mainstream consumer adoption also include the large power source attached to the ring that’s necessary for the motion tracking to operate.