A sensor-packed wireless wristband could individually control home and office HVAC systems and, one day, act as a motion-sensing interface between humans and machines, if researchers have their way. Part of MIT's MediaLab responsive environments research, WristQue is 3D-printed band containing a CPU, sensors for temperature, humidity and light, and a UWB radio used for communicating with home automation systems as well as pinpointing the wearer's location.
There are also three buttons, two of which currently allow the wearer to indicate whether they are too hot or too cold, and a third to activate motion control. If the temperature controls are pressed, the automation system can activate heating or cooling systems, or open windows; when more than one person is present in any one room, an average of the comfort levels is established.
As for motion gestures, they can be used for more precise control over things like TVs and computers. While motion-tracking systems have been implemented previously - the CHIP concept home we wrote about yesterday used a Kinect to allow occupants to interact with the intelligent computer systems - the WristQue system adds identification into the mixture. "People can gesture with Kinect but it doesn't know who you are" responsive environments group director Joe Paradiso told NewScientist, "we're thinking of a device that can do that, but without distracting you like a PDA."
Meanwhile, the WristQue system learns from patterns of use, and can automatically predict what comfort levels users will expect - tweaked to suit the outside temperatures and weather conditions too. The MIT team reckons energy use fell by 24-percent over a three week trial, because of the system's accurate and responsive HVAC management.
In the future, though, room for an expansion board within the wristband itself opens the door to more advanced implementations. One such possibility is shared smart displays, which would assign themselves to a proximate user and show curated information - such as email and social networking updates - based on their identity.