With the whirl of a thumb, Georgia Tech researchers have created technology that allows people to trace letters and numbers on their fingers and see the figures appear on a nearby computer screen. The system is triggered by a thumb ring outfitted with a gyroscope and tiny microphone. As wearers strum their thumb across the fingers, the hardware detects the movement.
In a video demonstration, the “written” figures appear on an adjacent screen. In the future, the researchers say the technology could be used to send phone calls to voicemail or answer text messages — all without the wearer reaching for their phone or even looking at it.
“When a person grabs their phone during a meeting, even if trying to silence it, the gesture can infringe on the conversation or be distracting,” said Thad Starner, the Georgia Tech School of Interactive Computing professor leading the project. “But if they can simply send the call to voicemail, perhaps by writing an ‘x’ on their hand below the table, there isn’t an interruption.”
Starner also says the technology could be used in virtual reality, replacing the need to take off a head-mounted device in order to input commands via a mouse or keyboard.
The research team wanted to build a system that would always be available and easy to use.
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