Chris Harrison has developed Skinput, a way in which your skin can become a touch screen device or your fingers a keypad. Harrison says that as electronics get smaller and smaller they have become more adaptable to being worn on our bodies, but the monitor and keypad/keyboard still have to be big enough for us to operate the equipment. This can defeat the purpose of small devices but with the clever acoustics and impact sensing software, Harrison and his team can give your skin the same functionality as a keypad.
Chris has used tables and walls as touch screens but has experimented using the surface area of our bodies because technology is now small enough to be carried around with us and we can’t always find an appropriate surface.
Harrison, a 3rd-year PhD student in the Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, says we have roughly two square meters of external surface area, and most of it is easily accessible by our hands (eg: arms, upper legs, torso). He has used the myriad sounds our body makes when tapped by a finger on different areas of say, an arm or hand or other fingers, and married these sounds to a computer function. Technically its called “proprioception”.
Harrison and his team have created its own bio-acoustic sensing array that is worn on the arm meaning that no electronics are attached to the skin. Harrison explains that when a finger taps the body, bone densities, soft tissues, joint proximity, etc, affect the sound this motion makes. The software he has created recognizes these different acoustic patterns and interprets them as function commands.
Harrison’s research paper, co-authored by Desney Tan and Dan Morris from Microsoft Research, titled *Skinput: Appropriating the Body as an Input Surface* will appear in Proceedings of the 28th Annual SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (Atlanta, Georgia) in April.