SkinTrack turns your body into a trackpad controller

Chris Burns - May 5, 2016, 2:58pm CDT
SkinTrack turns your body into a trackpad controller

Today a group within Carnegie Mellon University have broadened our “smart touch” horizons. Touchpads and touchscreens – a thing of the past. Smartphones, smart watches, and smart devices of all sorts will be changed forever. This group has made a technology that uses your skin as a controller. Instead of swiping back and forth on the screen of your phone, you’ll swipe back and forth on your wrist. Instead of scrolling on the screen of your watch, you’ll scroll by brushing your hand. How simple. How perfect.

What you know today as a touchscreen or a trackpad may soon be able to work on your body. Not just on a pad on your computer, not just on the display of your smartphone. Forget those smudges.

A smartwatch may be entirely too tiny for you to want to control with swiping – or even with a dial, as the Apple Watch does. If your whole arm is a touchpad, the display can become far more useful and user-friendly.

Watch this demonstration video to see what it’s all about.

This isn’t so much a replacement for the touchscreen as it is a replacement for the trackpad you’d generally know from a desktop computer. If your finger isn’t the controller on the screen, you’re going to need a cursor. The little arrow you know as your mouse.

Smartphone’s next big thing: “Pre-Touch”

Once that’s in play, you’ll also need the tap, and the double-tap. Or the click. Then you’ve got a desktop user interface.

Can this technology replace the touchscreen? Not until these problems are solved. Or not until the user interfaces we’ve got today conform to our new skin-based control scheme. We’ll just have to wait and see.

This technology comes from the research lab Future Interfaces Group. This lab exists within the Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University.

Their goal is to create “new sensing and interface technologies that aim to make interactions between humans and computers more fluid, intuitive and powerful.”

Their lab is supported by industrial sponsors and funding agencies such as The David Lucile and Packard Foundation, Microsoft, NSF, Disney, Yahoo, Google, and Qualcomm.

Could we see this technology coming to our smart devices soon? On that you can probably bet safely.


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