Keeping our digits warm and dry can be a real challenge when using smartphones in the winter. The solution we usually peddle is simple: dump your current hand warmers for a new pair of touch-enabled gloves. But there aren’t a lot of brands that sell touch-enabled gloves, and what if you like what you’re already wearing? Canadian inventor Tony Yu has thought of a solution.
Updated on 02-26-2014 by Josh Sherman: We just got our sample of Nanotips and have posted a quick hands-on with the technology below.
Meet Nanotips: A specially-designed compound made with nanotechnology that can help you turn any pair of gloves into touch-enabled ones. He’s running a Kickstarter to help get raise money to mass produce the compound.
Yu told us he got the idea after buying his motorcycle, along with all the much-needed accessories, such as a helmet, jacket, and – you guessed it – gloves.
“When I started actually riding, I ran into the inconvenience of always having to take off my gloves whenever I wanted to check the maps on my phone.” Yu’s ridiculously expensive gloves for riding didn’t come with a conductive thread that would make them touch-enabled.
You apply the solution on the glove tips, and once it dries they will work with smartphone and tablet touchscreens.
Yu hated the touch-enabled gloves that were on the market, and certainly didn’t want to spend a bunch of money for a whole new pair. At first he thought about using silver thread, but didn’t want to take a sewing needle to his $200 gloves. Next was trying a set of “studs” that were inserted, but according to Yu “they were so hard to apply and they ended up coming off almost immediately.”
Yu tried several more methods, including a sort of “condom” for your gloves, but they either wouldn’t work, or kept sliding off while he rode his motorcycle.
There wasn’t anything on the market that fit Yu’s needs, so he decided to figure out a solution on his own, taking a few ideas he had in mind with readily available components and modifying them to suit his own needs. Yu came up with his own formula for a compound that uses special conductive nanotubes, but remains super durable so it can last as long as possible on your gloves. After some more tweaking around and a few test batches, Nanotips was born.
Nanotips is a liquid solution that comes in a bottle small enough that it could contain nail polish. You apply the solution on the glove tips, and once it dries they will work with smartphone and tablet touchscreens. The original formula was supposed to be clear, but despite Yu’s best efforts, it still leaves a bluish hue when it dries, which is why he called it Nanotips Blue. There’s also a Black color available for the solution, which is designed especially for fabric or woven gloves. A bottle of the Blue stuff will give you about 15 fingers worth before you run out.
The other version, Nanotips Black, is formulated to leave behind a deep black color, matching many popular leather, canvas, or other gloves made with heavier and more durable materials. Nanotips Black comes with enough for 30 fingers – about twice as many as Nanotips Blue – and can also be used to create conductive circuits on paper, turn a sharpie into a stylus, and do several other creative things. Yu hope’s he’ll soon have a patent for the solution. Though Nanotips Blue is less durable than Nanotips Black, both are designed to last through a winter or rainy season. One test with a construction worker’s pair using Nanotips Black lasted nearly 700 hours of constant use before wearing off.
Yu sees Nanotips as a great way to make traditional prosthetics more compatible with our gadgets.
The Kickstarter has already met its $10,500 CAD goal with three weeks remaining, but this is just the beginning. Now, Yu’s plan are bolder.
“I would really like to develop a clear formula … There are also future plans to apply the liquid for prosthetics. [It’s] very niche market but I would like to see improvements there,” he told DT.
Yu sees Nanotips as a great way to make traditional prosthetics more compatible with our gadgets, which would mean an easier, more tech-friendly life for those who use them.
Yu is also working on a more durable, transparent formula for fabrics, which we will soon test out for ourselves. We’ll be sure to update you guys once we’ve received it and let you know how it works. All in all, Nanotips sounds like an awesome way for people to make their favorite pair of gloves touch-friendly, and we’re really excited to see how much it will raise in the weeks to come.
Hands on with Nanotips
When we got our sample of Nanotips, it came in a small nail-polish sized container with a black liquid inside. Just like using a bottle of nail polish, you simply apply the materials in a small 1-inch by 1-inch area on each finger you want to make touch-sensitive. We tested this stuff out on a pair of Leatherman work gloves I had bought for use while working on hobbies. After applying the material, you have to run a blow dryer on the gloves or leave them out for a few hours. Don’t dare to try using them until they full dry.
In our experience, this stuff works really well. Once it dries, a textured surface remains that is conductive, allowing users to easily take advantage of the touch screens on their tablets and smartphones. In our experience it’s best to cover the very tip of the gloves, as this is the area where you’ll naturally press your phone with when using it. Depending on how thick your gloves are, you might have to get used to the extra surface area you’re working with as opposed to your usual fingers, but if you leave a fairly thick layer. Still, Nanotips leave an extremely sensitive conductive area, meaning you don’t have to press down too hard while using your gloves.
According to the instructions, the textured, conductive surface is supposed to last a couple of weeks, though it depends on how often you’re using them, and if you’re working with very abrasive surfaces like sandpaper, which will quickly rub away the conductive surface. Still, it’s easy to reapply and the bottle gives you quite a bit to work with. If you apply Nanotips with just a few fingers on each hand, the bottle will easily last you a whole season.
All in all we think Nanotips is a useful concept, especially if you already love the gloves you own. It’s a pricey compared to a knit pair of touch-sensitive gloves on Amazon, but if you have a pair you absolutely need to make touch-enabled, then Nanotips is the surefire way to do it. The Kickstarter just ended on Feb. 25. but you can still grab them on the Nanotips website.
Article originally published on 2-01-2014.