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SkinTrack turns your whole forearm into a smartwatch interface

If you’re a smartwatch owner, you’re probably well aware of their pitfalls. While they’re getting better, they still rely too much on a tiny display in order to function. And while manufacturers could make smartwatch displays larger, that would lead to some very unfashionable devices. The solution? Turn your whole forearm into an interface.

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That’s the idea behind Future Interfaces Group’s latest technology, called SkinTrack. With SkinTrack, a smartwatch includes a number of sensors, enabling it to treat your arm like a touch interface. Future Interfaces Group is a research lab based at Carnegie Mellon University.

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The system basically works with a ring that’s worn on the finger and communicates with a sensor on the smartwatch. When the finger wearing the ring touches the skin near the watch, an electrical signal is sent through the arm. The watch is able to triangulate the location of the finger using the distance between the ring and a total of four sensors in the band of the watch.

There’s a ton of cool stuff you can do when you have your whole arm to interface with. Take a look at the video, and you’ll see apps being dragged onto your skin, which you can then tap on to return to the app. You can even use your arm to pull the slingshot further back in Angry Birds!

The system could also greatly expand the number of shortcuts available in a smartwatch — for example, we can see the user silencing a phone call simply by dragging out the letter ‘S’ on their skin. SkinTrack can even track your finger when it’s hovering above the skin.

“The great thing about SkinTrack is that it’s not obtrusive; watches and rings are items that people already wear every day,” said Yang Zhang, a Ph.D. student working on the technology.

Of course, it will be some time before this tech is implemented into consumer devices, but at least there’s hope that we won’t have to try and interface with our watches using tiny screens alone for much longer.