The human body is naturally conductive, so the electromagnetic noise that most electrical and electromechanical objects emit is propagated throughout the person touching it. Using a small, affordable radio-powered wearable, researchers at Disney and Carnegie Mellon University were able to develop a custom smart watch that detects the electromagnetic noise traveling through the body. Paired with their software definition system, the EM-Sense smart watch can identify what specific objects the wearer is touching at any given moment.
Examples of the EM-Sense’s detection capabilities are what really bring the technology to life. The main function allows the EM-Sense smart watch to simply identify objects, like a doorknob, a toothbrush, or a kitchen appliance. But that’s just the beginning. With a bit more development, EM-Sense’s creators think the technology could be used to automate frequent actions and augment important aspects of our daily routines.
In one demonstration, the smart watch identifies when the EM-Sense wearer has picked up a toothbrush, and starts a one-minute timer to ensure ideal dental hygiene. When you turn on your espresso machine EM-Sense might queue up your favorite news podcast, and when you turn the handle to your office door EM-Sense could read your emails, daily schedule, or business reminders.
EM-Sense’s hardware is uniquely affordable for scaled production, but existing wearable devices would have to adapt considerably from their current state in order to incorporate EM-Sense functionality. Consumer-ready EM-Sense wearables would also necessitate a certain learning period, as the software registers the objects that the wearer regularly interacts with and uses. Learning curve aside, EM-Sense technology is an important approach to creating real, native functionality in smart watches, instead of just acting a smaller, more accessible smart phone screen.