Keyboard of the future: Skinput

Imagine turning your arm and fingers into an instrument that can control your computer.  Imagine that you can just tap away at your wrist, palm forearm and see the icons of your media player whizz by.

SciFi? Not according to Chris Harrison (Carnegie Mellon University), Desney Tan and Dan Morris (Microsoft Research), who have developed a working prototype of a system called Skinput that does just that, essentially by turning a person’s hand and forearm into a keyboard and screen.
Using Skinput, you basically tap with your fingers on your forearm and control the actions of say, your iPhone.  Add a pico-projector into the mix and you can display an image of a digital keyboard on your arm, allowing you to send text messages without pulling your phone out of your pocket.

It won’t be in a computer store near you for the next, say two to seven years or so, as a lot of research and development still has to take place: the sensors need to get more accurate and the whole mechanics to transfer the tapping vibrations into commands need to be extended.  Nevertheless, in a recent 13-person trial in Seattle, Washington, Skinput was found to be 96% accurate.  But that test only used five buttons.

So in a few years time, with Skinput, computing is always available: A person might walk toward their home, tap their palm to unlock the door and then tap some virtual buttons on their arms to turn on the TV and start flipping through channels.

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