What if your skin could serve as an interactive surface? Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and Microsoft have produced Skinput, an experimental device that turns the body's largest organ into a touch screen.
CMU's Chris Harrison and colleagues at Microsoft rigged up an acoustic bio-sensor to detect sound patterns created when tapping a forearm or palm. Each area has a specific acoustic signature that can be associated with functions like dialing a phone or playing Tetris. Pinching and flicking gestures can also be used for commands.
The video below shows how the system works. A bulky armband array is attached to the bicep area to pick up waves propagating through arm tissues after taps on the fingertips or elsewhere on the arm, up to the area above the elbow.
Incorporating a pico projector into the armband turns the device into a body display, a bit like MIT's SixthSense technology. Skinput could relay tapped commands to mobile devices or PCs via wireless technologies like Bluetooth.
Skinput has an accuracy of up to 95 percent in detecting tapped spots and works even when the body is in motion, according to the researchers, who are presenting a paper at the 28th Annual SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in April.
If this gadget ever becomes a commercial reality, it could redefine our perception of common gestures. Drumming your fingers nervously could actually be texting, for example, while a slap to the forehead could launch a Web browser. Extrapolating from the arm device, I'll bet Skinput could turn the whole body into one giant quivering, jumping, dancing interface. Just think what Fred Astaire could have done with it.