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The future of touchscreen interfaces is: you? A project between a Carnegie Mellon researcher and a couple of creative thinkers over at Microsoft Research have created Skinput, a Bluetooth-enabled device that allows you to use your own skin as a peripheral input device for devices like cell phones, MP3 players or gaming consoles.
The device works via an armband, which contains a small projector that beams whatever relevant interface you need onto your hand or forearm. Then you simply press the appropriate part of your skin just like you were tapping the screen of an iPhone. An acoustic sensor in the armband can tell where you are tapping because of the different bond densities, tissues, and other differentiating factors inherent in your body’s geography.
Bluetooth then transmits the corresponding signal to the appropriate device; if you’ve just dialed a phone number, it sends the info to your phone and dials the call.
While it seems pretty dazzling and all, we can’t help but question the benefits. For one, dialing on your skin only seems like a benefit if it means we don’t have to carry an extra device around with us; if the added benefit of using my arm as, say, my TV remote means I have to don an armband at all times, I’m not sure I’ve gained anything. Not to mention, if I dial a phone number on my hand and then have to reach into my pocket to get my phone with that same hand, have I really saved myself any trouble over simply retrieving the phone before I dial? I guess I could get a Bluetooth headset to go truly hands free, but then I would be one of those people with a Bluetooth headset.
The technology, however, is pretty amazing, and could be the precursor to a range of software that doesn’t work off input devices as we know them (mice, keyboards, touchscreens) but rather projects interfaces onto a surface of your choosing and let’s you input without peripherals. If nothing else, it will turn heads on the street when you start scrolling through your apps via your forearm.