A stroke of genius! These hair extensions let wearers discreetly open applications, send preset messages and broadcast a person’s location.
Perhaps that woman over there is absent-mindedly stroking her hair, or better yet, maybe she is inconspicously recording a conman’s deception and sharing his whereabouts as we speak. In a project that seems wild enough to be taken right out of a James Bond film, Maker Katia Vega has created an innovative wearable device that enables users to discreetly control their electronic gadgets by simply stroking their hair.
If her name sounds familiar, it’s because Vega is no stranger to the convergence of beauty products and super hero-like technology. Back in 2013, she introduced a system comprised of metallized false eyelashes, conductive makeup and an ATmega32U4 based Clio board from Seeed Studio to turn on screens and drones with a wink. With her latest solution, called Hairware, the high-tech hair extensions can not only sense when they’re being touched but can be used as a wireless input device for smartphones as well. What’s more, they can be configured to open applications, send preset messages or broadcast a person’s location, all without the user visibly interacting with their device.
“Normally, while someone touches her own hair, unconsciously she is bringing comfort to herself and at the same time is emitting a non-verbal message decodable by an observer. However, when she touches on Hairware, she is not just making this unconscious behaviour because she will be triggering an object,” Vega writes. “Thus, we add new functionalities to hair extensions, turning them into a seamless device that recognizes auto-contact behaviors concealed to outside observers.”
The naturally-looking pieces of hair serve as a capacitive sensor that detects variations in touch. This change is detected by an Atmel based Arduino, which interprets the input and transmits it over to a smartphone via Bluetooth. To avoid accidental activation, Hairware uses machine learning algorithms to recognize a user’s intention.
Each time a user touches the top, middle or tip of the hair strand, the capacitor sensor differentiates these values. For example, a single stroke can be programmed to activate an app, a double stroke could be used to toggle a phone’s location tracking, while continuous playing of the hair can be used to send out an emergency text message.
In the near future, Vega hopes to commercialize the technology and demonstrate its potential application for personal security, particularly for women. Don’t worry guys, the Maker also has plans to extend Hairware and turn beards into active app controllers. Want to learn more? Head over to the project’s official page here, or watch it in action below.