Touch-typing with thumbs on a mobile phone keyboard is a pretty familiar way to input text, and that is part of what led to BiTipText, a method of allowing bimanual text input using fingertips. The idea is to treat the first segments of the index fingers as halves of a tiny keyboard, whose small imaginary keys are tapped with the thumbs. The prototype shown here was created to see how well the concept could work.
The prototype hardware uses touch sensors that can detect tap position with a high degree of accuracy, but the software side is where the real magic happens. Instead of hardcoding a QWERTY layout and training people to use it, the team instead ran tests to understand users’ natural expectations of which keys should be on which finger, and how exactly they should be laid out. This data led to an optimized layout, and when combined with predictive features, test participants could achieve an average text entry speed of 23.4 words per minute.
Judging by the prototype hardware, it’s understandable if one thinks the idea of fingertip keyboards may be a bit ahead of its time. But considering the increasingly “always on, always with you” nature of personal technology, the goal of the project was more about investigating ways for users to provide input in fast and subtle ways. It seems that the idea has some merit in principle. The project’s paper can be viewed online, and the video demonstration is embedded below.
Touch screens are great, but what if you want to use any surface as an input? Then you grab the simplest of today’s standard inputs: a computer mouse. But take that one step further and think of the possibilities of using the mouse as a graphic input device in addition to a positional sensor. This concept allows Magic Finger to distinguish between many different materials. It knows the difference between your desk and a piece of paper. Furthermore, it opens the door to data transfer through a code scheme they call a micro matrix. It’s like a super small QR code which is read by the camera in the device.
The concept video found after the break shows off a lot of cool tricks used by the device. Our favorite is the tablet PC controlled by moving your finger on the back side of the device, instead of interrupting your line of sight and leaving fingerprints by touching the screen.
[Embedded lab] has a nice tutorial on building your own heart rate monitor. The monitor works by shining infrared light into the fingertip and looking at the changes in the reflected infrared signal caused by a heartbeat. The IR detector produces a very small AC signal so a couple of op-amps are used to filter and amplify the signal. The output of the filter circuit is then read in by a PIC16F628A, which counts the beats and displays it on a seven segment display. This might be a good project to try if you’ve got your microcontrollers down and you are looking to learn some analog electronics. Its noted at the end that the two main problems with building a circuit like this are going to be cross talk and adjusting the filters. The infrared diode and receiver should be close to each other to allow maximum reflection but you also need to make sure that you don’t allow the emitter to shine directly into the detector because the reflected light will be drowned out by the bright emitter.