Roll Up Your Sleeve, Watch a Video with This Smart Watch Forearm Projector

We’re all slowly getting used to the idea of wearable technology, fabulous flops like the creepy Google Glass notwithstanding. But the big problem with tiny tech is in finding the real estate for user interfaces. Sure, we can make it tiny, but human fingers aren’t getting any smaller, and eyeballs can only resolve so much fine detail.

So how do we make wearables more usable? According to Carnegie-Mellon researcher [Chris Harrison], one way is to turn the wearer into the display and the input device (PDF link). More specifically, his LumiWatch projects a touch-responsive display onto the forearm of the wearer. The video below is pretty slick with some obvious CGI “artist’s rendition” displays up front. But even the somewhat limited displays shown later in the video are pretty impressive. The watch can claim up to 40-cm² of the user’s forearm for display, even at the shallow projection angle offered by a watch bezel only slightly above the arm — quite a feat given the irregular surface of the skin. It accomplishes this with a “pico-projector” consisting of red, blue, and green lasers and a pair of MEMS mirrors. The projector can adjust the linearity and brightness of the display to provide a consistent image across the uneven surface. An array of 10 time-of-flight sensors takes care of watching the display area for touch input gestures. It’s a fascinating project with a lot of potential, but we wonder how the variability of the human body might confound the display. Not to mention the need for short sleeves year round.

Need some basics on the micro-electrical mechanic systems (MEMS) behind the pico-projector in this watch? We’ve got a great primer on these microscopic machines.

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Everything’s a Touch Surface with Electrick

Touch screens are great, but big touchscreens are expensive and irregular touchscreens are not easy to make at all. Electrik is a method developed by several researchers at Carnegie Mellon University that makes almost any solid object into a touch surface using tomography. The catch is that a conductive coating — in the form of conductive sheets, 3D plastic, or paint — is necessary. You can see a demonstration and many unique applications in the video below. They’ve even made a touch-sensitive brain out of Jell-O and a touchable snowman out of Play-Doh.

The concept is simple. Multiple electrodes surround the surface. The system injects a current using a pair of electrodes and then senses the output at the other terminals. A finger touch will change the output of several of the electrodes. Upon detection, the system will change the injection electrodes and repeat the sensing. By using multiple electrode pairs and tomography techniques, the system can determine the location of touch and even do rough motion tracking like a low-resolution touch pad mouse.

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Harpsi-Gourd Gets You Into Thanksgiving Spirit

Halloween might be over, but for some of us there’s still another pumpkin-centric holiday right around the corner to give us an excuse to build projects out of various gourds. During a challenge at a local event, [Michael] came up with a virtual cornucopia of uses for all of the squashes he had on hand and built a touch-sensitive piano with all of them.

The musical instrument was dubbed the Harpsi-Gourd and makes extensive use of the Arduino touch-sensitive libraries. Beyond that, the project was constructed to be able to fit into a standard sized upright piano. While only 15 pumpkins are currently employed, the instrument can be scaled up to 48 pumpkins. Presumably they would need to be very small for the lid of the piano to still close.

The Harpsi-Gourd is a whimsical re-imagining of the original Makey Makey which can be used to do all kinds of things, including play Mario Bros. There are all kinds of other food-based musical instruments at your disposal as well, though.

Touching Light with Haptic Feedback

Many of us have gone on a stationary romp through some virtual or augmented scape with one of the few headsets out in the wild today. While the experience of viewing a convincing figment of reality is an exciting sensation in itself, [Mark Lee] and [Kevin Wang] are figuring out how to tie other senses into the mix.

The duo from Cornell University have built a mechanical exoskeleton that responds to light with haptic feedback. This means the wearer can touch the sphere of light around a source as if it were a solid object. Photo resistors are mounted like antenna to the tip of each finger, which they filed down around the edges to receive a more  diffused amount of light. When the wearer of the apparatus moves their hand towards a light source, the sensors trigger servo motors mounted on the back of the hand to actuate and retract a series of 3D printed tendons which arch upward and connect to the individual fingers of the wearer. This way as the resistors receive varying amounts of light, they can react independently to simulate physical contours.

One of the goals of the project was to produce a working proof of concept with no more than 100 dollars worth of materials, which [Mark] and [Kevin] achieve with some cash to spare. Their list of parts can be found on their blog along with some more details on the project.

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Fixing Ghost Touch In The OnePlus One

The OnePlus One is the flagship phone killer for 2014, available only by invite, and thus extremely cool. So far it’s a limited production run and there will, of course, be problems with the first few thousand units. When [vantt1] got his One, he noticed a few issues with the touch screen. Some touches wouldn’t be registered, typing was unpredictable, and generally, the touchscreen was unusable. [vantt] had seen this before, though, so with a complete teardown and a quick fix he was able to turn this phone into something great.

[vantt] realized the symptoms of a crappy touchscreen were extremely similar to an iPad mini that had recently had its digitizer replace. From the Foxconn plant, the digitizer in the iPad mini is well insulated from the aluminium enclosure. When the screen and digitizer are replaced, the cable connecting it to the rest of the iPad can come in contact with the case. This leads to the same symptoms – missed touches, and unpredictable typing.

Figuring the same cure will fix the same symptoms, [vantt] tore apart his OnePlus One and carefully taped off the digitizer flex cable. Reassembling the phone, everything worked beautifully, and without any extra screws in the reassembly process. You can’t do better than that.

Artificial skin lets robots feel

BioTac Artificial Skin Technology is sure to be a storm with Robotics Designers. Giving them the opportunity to add a third sense to there robotic marvels. Now they can have the sense of touch to go along with existing technologies of sight and of sound.  Thanks to the technology coming out of the University of Southern California making this possible.

They have chosen to call their sensor BioTac, which is a new type of tactile sensor designed to mimic the human fingertip with its soft flexible skin. The sensor makes it possible to identify different types of texture by analyzing the vibrations produced as the sensor brushes over materials. This sensor is also capable of measuring pressure applied and  ambient temperature around the finger tip, expect to see this technology in next gen prosthetics. Let us know your thoughts on it.

[via technabob]
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Replicating the fancy touch sensor that uses anything

[Sprite_tm], a name many of you will recognize from these pages, has wasted no time in replicating the latest cool thing in a much simpler fashion. En Garde is a touch sensor that can detect up to 32 different points of contact on… whatever you use as the surface.  He couldn’t sit idly by and let the Disney funded one from yesterday keep the spot light. As you can see in the video, it works pretty well. If he didn’t tell you that his can only detect up to 32 points as opposed to the 200 of the other, you probably wouldn’t even notice the difference.  Of course, [Sprite_tm] also shares how you could easily beef his up to be even more precise. You can also download his source code an schematics from his site and give it a try yourself.

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