Tag Archives: touch-sensitive

Control your wearable display with a touch-sensitive belt

Belt is an unobtrusive touch input device for head-worn displays.

As the wearable market continue to mature, Makers are coming up with some pretty slick ways to use body-adorned items as interfaces for their mobile devices — whether that’s stroking one’s own hair to discreetly make a phone call or affixing stickers to one’s skin to control their music player. And while Google Glass has yet to experience mainstream popularity, it’s only a matter of time before the technology behind it will be enhanced to the point where it can eventually be integrated into a pair of everyday glasses. Until then, however, a group of researchers from Ulm University in Germany have come up with an alternative solution: your belt.


The aptly-dubbed Belt not only can hold up your trousers, but can enable a user to command their wearable display device as well. The accessory is covered in punk-like, touch-sensitive metal studs, which allow a wearer to slide their thumb across its surface to scroll down lists, tap to make selections, or use other gestures to control the wearable device’s UI — all without ever having to touch the side of their head. What’s more, shortcuts to applications be implemented anywhere along the outside of the belt, whether that means accessing Facebook just above the left-hand pocket or opening up emails right above the rear.

Ultimately, wearers can decide as to how much of the belt they would like to use as a touch-sensitive controller. What’s more, the software can be made intelligent enough to distinguish between an accidental stroke of an arm and an actual gesture, as well as ignore any unwanted activity.


The Belt itself is equipped with an Arduino Pro Mini (ATmega328), a Bluetooth Low Energy module, four SparkFun capacitive touch sensor breakout boards, and a battery to power it up.

“In a qualltative user study with 14 participants, we found out that for short interactions (two-four seconds), most of the surface area is considered as appropriate input space, while for longer interactions (up to 10 seconds), the front areas above the trouser pockets are preferred,” the team writes.

Intrigued? Check out the project’s entire paper here, or watch it in action below.

This smartwatch turns your skin into a touchscreen

Developed by Carnegie Mellon University’s Future Interfaces Group, Skin Buttons are touch-sensitive projected icons made on a user’s skin.


While smartwatches are a promising new interactive platform, their small size makes even basic actions cumbersome. As a result, the Carnegie Mellon team has designed a new way to “expand the interactive envelope around smartwatches, allowing human input to escape the small physical confines of the device.”

Using tiny laser projects that are integrated into the smartwatch to render touch-sensitive icons allows for the expansion of the interaction region without increasing device size, and more importantly, sacrificing precious real estate on a wearer’s arm.

“Maybe in 15 or 20 years you’ll have a device that’s as powerful as a smartphone but has no screen at all,” explained Chris Harrison, Head of the Future Interfaces Group. “Instead it’s like a little box of matches that you plunk down on the table in front of you and now all of a sudden that table it interactive. Or a watch that’s screen-less. You could just snap your fingers and you whole arm becomes interactive.”

The proof-of-concept implementation can be used for a range of applications, many of which typically found on a mobile device, such as accessing music, reading emails and text messages, as well as checking the time or setting an alarm.

The prototype smartwatch contains four fixed-icon laser projectors along with accompanying infrared proximity sensors. These are connected to an ATmega328P based Femtoduino board, which communicates over USB with a host computer. Additionally, a 1.5-inch TFT LCD display is driven from a host computer. While the team used an external computer for prototyping, it appears that a commercial model would be self-contained.

“If you put a button on your skin, you expect people to be like, “What the, this is totally insane!” Harrison told Wired. “But actually people don’t generally react like that. People think it’s cool but they get over the coolness really fast and just start using it.”

Interested in learning more? You can access the team’s entire paper here, or head over to the Future Interfaces Group’s official website.

Video: Building touch-sensitive furniture

A Maker by the name of Tinkering Techie has designed a beautiful touch-sensitive nightstand powered by an Atmel-based Arduino Fio (ATmega328P).

Additional key project specs include a number of LEDs, magnetic reed switch for drawer sensing, a PowerSSR Tail for lamp control and a 1000 mAh Lithium Ion Battery for backup power. The nightstand itself is built out of mahogany, with three Kapton-covered copper clad boards placed along the front and side edges (under the top of the nightstand).

As the HackADay crew notes, the sensing boards are connected to the Arduino Fio which is tasked with turning on a night light (one tap) or lamp (two taps).

“The electronics are powered by a small USB charger with a battery backup all hidden underneath the top of the nightstand,” explained HackADays Brian Benchoff. “Inside the drawer, a magnetic reed switch turns on an RGB LED whenever the drawer is opened.”

Interested in learning more about the Atmel-Arduino powered touch-sensitive nightstand? You can check out the project’s official page here.