Motion sensors serve tilting smartwatch

Tiltable watch - Image: HCII/Carnegie Mellon UniversityTapping and swiping on smartwatch apps is fiddly – and your fingers get in the way of what’s on the screen, too. To the rescue comes Gierad Laput of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with a tiltable watch face that could save you a whole lot of screen jabbing.

At the computer-human interaction conference in Toronto, Canada, this week, Laput revealed how he and his Carnegie Mellon colleagues attached a pair of gamepad motion sensors to a smartwatch-style LCD display so that it can detect when a user pans, twists or tilts the screen. The sensed motions are used to navigate around content such as a map, or play games, saving the user the need to poke at the screen to accomplish such tasks.

Pushing down on the screen activates all the sensors at once and is recognised as an option-choosing “click” of the cursor. The motion-detection worked fine when they tried using it to play a version of Doom, a first-person shooter video game. “Smartwatches – and wearables in general – are really exciting, but interacting with them is terrible. It’s a hard problem, and we have to keep chipping away at it,” Laput says.

“Since our fingers are large, and people want smartwatches to be small, we have to go beyond traditional input techniques. Digitising the mechanical movements of a watch face in this way offers interaction without occluding the screen. It is easy to implement and we’d love to see the research go into future products.”

David Harold, a director of Imagination Technologies, based in Hertfordshire, UK, which develops graphics systems for mobile devices, says the motion-sensitive screen could complement existing watch and phone-control methods such as voice-recognition and icon pressing. “It’s an interesting idea but my absolute gut feeling is that this would best be used in gaming, where you definitely don’t want your fingers covering the screen. There’s a trend towards improving wearable interfaces for different applications and this is very much part of that.”

The idea comes as fresh rumours surfaced about a possible Apple smartwatch. On 19 April, Nike decided to focus on fitness monitoring software and abandon manufacture of the iOS-based Fuel Band hardware that currently runs it.

Apple CEO Tim Cook is on Nike’s board, and so there has been some speculation that Nike – a long-term Apple partner since the early iPod days – may be moving aside to give Apple a clearer run in the wearables market with a watch that will runs the Nike Fuel Band software. Speaking on CNBC this week, Nike CEO Mark Parker guardedly said that he is “excited about what’s to come” from a continuing Apple and Nike partnership. There have been rumours for some time that Apple is planning to launch an iWatch this year.

Syndicated content: Paul Marks, New Scientist

Image: HCII/Carnegie Mellon University

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