New Tech Transforms Human Body into a Touchscreen

Dennis Faas's picture

Scientists at Carnegie Mellon University have developed new technology that is set to revolutionize the ways in which we manipulate certain handheld devices, by transforming the human body into an actual touchscreen platform.

Skinput, the name given to the wireless device, allows an individual to push a few holographic buttons on their arm or hand to control their mobile phone, MP3 player and even certain video game consoles.

The technology was first developed by Chris Harrison at Carnegie Mellon University, in collaboration with Desney Tan and Dan Morris at Microsoft Research Computational User Experiences Group. With Microsoft's backing, Skinput has the support and funding needed to one day reach the retail market.

Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes, Acoustically Different

The way the technology works is quite interesting. Skinput uses a bio-acoustic sensing technique that allows the human body to double as an input service. When your fingers tap the skin in different locations, the subsequent impact creates acoustic signals that can be measured by the device.

In order to capture the signals, scientists had to first develop a bio-acoustic sensing array that listens for different impacts and classifies them accordingly.

Variations in bone density, size and mass, as well as filtering effects from soft tissues and joints, make different locations on the skin sound acoustically distinct. Using Bluetooth technology, each area of the skin is allotted a different function, which appears to the individual as a touchscreen-like series of holographic buttons. (Source:

Lack of Space Spurs Skinput Creation

The idea for Skinput came as a result of the increasingly small interactive spaces on most pocket-sized mobile devices. As the researchers stated, the human body is a wonderful alternative "not only because we have roughly two square meters of external surface area, but also because much of it is easily accessible by our hands." (Source:

Current reports indicate that Skinput can detect five different skin locations with an accuracy of 95.5 per cent.

There's no precise estimate as to when Skinput might reach a wider market, but there's no denying the technology would be incredibly useful if it ever does.

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