Back in the early Wired magazine days, we used to joke about technology that seemed to be perpetually "just around the corner" -- like storing the entire Library of Congress in a sugar cube-sized device, nanobots, and contact lens computer displays. Looks like the latter is almost ready for prime time! Just this week, startup Mojo Vision has demonstrated augmented reality in a contact lens. They've integrated a 14K pixels-per-inch display, wireless, and image and motion sensors into a wirelessly-powered device that sits in your eye. “When you close your eyes, you still see the content displayed,” Mojo Vision's Steve Sinclair says. Tekla Perry wrote about the technology, called Invisible Computing, in IEEE Spectrum
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The first application, says Steve Sinclair, senior vice president of product and marketing, will likely be for people with low vision—providing real-time edge detection and dropping crisp lines around objects. In a demonstration last week at CES 2020, I used a working prototype (albeit by squinting through the lens rather than putting it into my eyes), and the device highlighted shapes in bright green as I looked around a dimly lit room....
I also saw a demonstration of text displayed using the prototype; it was easy to read. Potential future applications, beyond those intended for people with low vision, include translating languages in real time, tagging faces, and providing emotional cues....
The path ahead is not a short one; contact lenses are considered medical devices and therefore need U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. But the Mojo Lens has been designated as an FDA Breakthrough Device which will speed things up a little.
UC Berkeley researcher and artist Eric Paulos and his students continue their explorations of "cosmetic computing" with a new prototype and paper about "Human Hair as Interactive Material." If you'd like to coif your own computational locks, they've posted a how-to guide on Instructables. From their research page:
Human hair is a cultural material, with a rich history displaying individuality, cultural expression and group identity. It is malleable in length, color and style, highly visible, and embedded in a range of personal and group interactions. As wearable technologies move ever closer to the body, and embodied interactions become more common and desirable, hair presents a unique and little-explored site for novel interactions. In this paper, we present an exploration and working prototype of hair as a site for novel interaction, leveraging its position as something both public and private, social and personal, malleable and permanent. We develop applications and interactions around this new material in HäirIÖ: a novel integration of hair-based technologies and braids that combine capacitive touch input and dynamic output through color and shape change. Finally, we evaluate this hair-based interactive technology with users, including the integration of HäirIÖ within the landscape of existing wearable and mobile technologies.
For more, please listen to Mark Frauenfelder and I interview Eric about Cosmetic Computing in this episode of For Future Reference, a podcast from Institute for the Future:
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With Vaunt, Intel is taking steps toward solving the Glasshole paradox: how to get consumers to wear wearables that don't make wearers seem like bad clichés of wearable users. Read the rest
MIT and Microsoft researchers demonstrated a system of gold leaf temporary tattoos for "on-skin user interfaces" including a touch sensor, near field communication antennae, and a low-res thermochromic display that changes color. From the research description:
DuoSkin draws from the aesthetics found in metallic jewelry-like temporary tattoos to create
on-skin devices which resemble jewelry. DuoSkin devices enable users to
control their mobile devices, display information, and store information on
their skin while serving as a statement of personal style. We believe that in the
future, on-skin electronics will no longer be black-boxed and mystified; instead,
they will converge towards the user friendliness, extensibility, and
aesthetics of body decorations, forming a DuoSkin integrated to the extent that
it has seemingly disappeared.
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Carnegie Mellon University researchers developed a system that turns your arm into a trackpad. Video demo above. From their scientific paper:
It consists of a ring, which emits a continuous high frequency AC signal, and a sensing wristband with multiple electrodes. Due to the phase delay inherent in a high-frequency AC signal propagating through the body, a phase difference can be observed between pairs of electrodes. SkinTrack measures these phase differences to compute a 2D finger touch coordinate.
SkinTrack: Using the Body as an Electrical Waveguide for Continuous Finger Tracking on the Skin (PDF via Wired)
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My friends Bethany and Daniel, founders of Technology Will Save Us, have developed the "world’s first active wearable that kids, young and old, can make and code themselves." It's called the Mover, and it looks like a lot of fun to build, program, and use! Read the rest
At the 2015 Wearable Device Technology Expo in Tokyo in January, a tech firm introduced a small lapel worn sensor that can tell when the wearer's laughing, talking, or in trouble. Based on 10-years of "laugh-detecting" research, it's meant to help monitor the health of senior citizens. According to researchers:
To know they are "laughing" will help you see that they are happy and mentally well. "Falling" may indicate an emergency situation. This device reassures you that your loved ones, who live far away, are doing well.
via Tim Hornyak, IDG News Service Read the rest
If you're at CES, Friday is the last day to see this 3D-printed robotic spider dress in action. Read the rest