Give your phone the finger with this creepy, versatile robotic attachment

There was a time in history when we thought that selfie sticks were the weirdest smartphone accessory that could ever exist. Now, an unusual, altogether unsettling new phone attachment will make you reconsider. Called MobiLimb, it’s a robotic finger that plugs into your smartphone and pulls itself along the floor by making beckoning motions. Imagine a new iPhone feature designed by The Evil Dead director Sam Raimi, and you’ll start to get the idea.

“MobiLimb is composed of five small servo motors, enclosed in a 3D-printed shell,” Marc Teyssier, a human-computer interaction researcher who helped create the device, told Digital Trends. “Everything is driven with an Arduino board, and it uses Android OTG connection for power usage and data transmission.”

For a device consisting of relatively simple tech, MobiLimb certainly manages to be creepily lifelike — as well as versatile. Along with dragging its smartphone “body” along a table, it can also wag like a tail, tap on a surface to indicate that a notification has been received, act as a flexible torch, and so on. Heck, if you so wished, it could even stroke your hand while you’re speaking on the phone. Because what better way is there to creep out your fellow commuters on the way home after a busy day’s work?

“The original starting point for this project was human touch for social communication, which is the topic of my Ph.D. thesis,” Teyssier continued. “In real-life communication, we use touch to communicate emotions with others. However, current technology doesn’t use touch as an information channel. This project is just one approach for how we can receive a remote touch. Another aspect of this work is the relationship we are building with our mobile devices. Because they’re always in our hands or pockets, smartphones are becoming companions for humans — yet right now they remain a cold and flat technology.”

The MobiLimb team created several versions of the finger, including the regular (as regular as it gets, at least) black plastic version, a furry one, and a flesh-like variant created with the help of a visual effects artist. The prototype is set to be shown off at the ACM User Interface Software and Technology conference in Berlin this month.

Don’t expect to be able to buy one any time soon, though. “We have no plans to commercialize it yet,” Teyssier said. “It’s a research project at a prototype phase. Its aim was to explore such devices — and judging by the reactions and comments on the internet, people are not ready to use it just yet.”

A paper describing the project is available to read online.

Emerging Tech

Here’s how Facebook taught its Portal A.I. to think like a Hollywood filmmaker

When Facebook introduced its Portal screen-enhanced smart speakers, it wanted to find a way to make video chat as intimate as sitting down for a conversation with a friend. Here's how it did it.
Product Review

Fascinating Finney phone is crypto in a nutshell: Exciting, but also terrifying

The Sirin Labs Finney phone is to cryptocurrency what the iPhone is to Apple Pay. It facilitates the payment, processing, and exchanging of cryptocurrencies on a smartphone, and surprisingly does it in a user-friendly way.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Grow veggies indoors and shower more efficiently

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Wearables

Focals succeed where Google Glass fumbled (but do we really need smartglasses?)

It’s been seven years since Google took the wraps off Google Glass. Now, we’re finally getting a modern-day equivalent we want to wear. North’s Focals combine subtle style with an intuitive interface to craft smartglasses you’ll…
Emerging Tech

SeaBubbles’ new electric hydrofoil boat is the aquatic equivalent of a Tesla

What do you get if you combine a Tesla, a flying car, and a sleek boat? Probably something a bit like SeaBubbles, the French "flying" boat startup which offers a fresh spin on the hydrofoil.
Emerging Tech

We tried a $500 electronic dab rig, and now we can’t go back to normal vaporizers

Induction heating is the future of cannabis vaporizers. Loto Labs wowed us with what likely is the best concentrate vaporizer on the market today. With a $500 price tag, it's expensive, but it should definitely be your next dab rig.
Emerging Tech

Israel will launch world’s first privately funded moon mission tomorrow

This week will see the world's first privately funded lunar mission launch. Israel's first mission to the moon will be launched aboard SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket on Thursday, February 21.
Emerging Tech

FDA warns about the dangers of anti-aging blood transfusions

It turns out injecting old people with blood from healthy youngsters may not be the answer to health rejuvenation. That’s according to the FDA, which says such claims are dangerous junk science.
Emerging Tech

Bees can do arithmetic, setting the scientific community abuzz

A new study has found something remarkable: Bees can do basic arithmetic. Researchers showed that bees could use colors as representations for numbers and then use those colors for addition and subtraction.
Emerging Tech

DeepSqueak is a machine learning A.I. that reveals what rats are chatting about

Want to know what rats are squeaking about? You'd better check out DeepSqueak, the new deep learning artificial intelligence developed by researchers at the University of Washington.
Health & Fitness

Immune cell discovery takes us one step closer to a universal flu vaccine

A group of international researchers have made a discovery which could take us one step closer to the universal, one-shot flu vaccine that people around the world have been dreaming of.
Photography

NASA celebrates Earth’s incredible natural beauty with free photo book

NASA has published a fabulous new book featuring stunning imagery captured by its satellites over the years. A hardback version is available for $53, though it can also be downloaded to ebook readers for free, and enjoyed online.
Deals

This new all-in-one flashlight is a power bank, lighter, and screwdriver

The Pyyros modular flashlight can perform numerous field tasks, from hammering to starting fires. If you back it on Kickstarter now, you can score some savings on this innovative flashlight and multi-tool, but act fast: This early-bird…
Movies & TV

Hilarious new Kickstarter aims to fix Scorcese’s last scene in The Departed

A fan of The Departed and apparent hater of rat-as-symbolism imagery has launched a Kickstarter campaign to digitally erase the rodent from the end of Martin Scorsese’s 2006 movie.