Skin Buttons Are Working Buttons Projected Onto The Skin

The folks at Carnegie Mellon’s Future Interfaces Group have made something really cool. Essentially, they are using small lasers to paint icons onto your skin through the bottom of a watch. The icons are touch sensitive and can be projected in any shape.

The team consists Gierad Laput, Robert Xiao, Xiang Chen, Scott E. Hudson, and Chris Harrison, researchers at CMU’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute. Interestingly, the project is similar to the “debunked” Ritot smartwatch although this project displays the icons and information in bright red.

From the project document:

(IR) proximity sensors complement these projectors to enable touch sensitivity. For example, tapping a pulsating text message icon could allow users to quickly jump to that message. In addition to providing a projection surface, the skin also provides useful tactile feedback.
We make the following contributions: (1) an approach providing around-device, on-body input with projected, graphical feedback, which augments a smartwatch’s small screen with lightweight peripheral icons; (2) the design and implementation of the prototype hardware system and icon set; (3) an evaluation of the system’s feasibility: power con- sumption, size, and cost; and (4) a user study of its usability: recognizability, visibility, and accuracy.

These sorts of interface tricks are quite interesting. By expanding a watch interface off of the physical object you get a bigger palette on which to create and you reduce the need for text and icons on the screen. It’s great for folks who can’t see well – the icons can be as big as needed – and it’s also a nice way to expand the field of interaction without making the screen bigger. Could we soon see an Apple or Android with a powerful holographic laser system inside? I hope so!