[Image above] A new smartwatch prototype called LumiWatch has a built-in projector that transforms your skin into a touchscreen. Credit: Robert Xiao; YouTube
Touchscreen smartwatches are great—in theory.
The devices offer most of the same abilities as your smartphone, albeit nestled into a smaller device that you snuggly attach to your wrist—right where it’s easy to access.
But a big challenge in designing a really functional smartwatch is balancing form and function—you don’t want a big, bulky device strapped to your wrist, but you also want a touchscreen that’s big enough to actually be functional.
Researchers and engineers at Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, Pa.) and ASU Tech Co. Ltd. (Beijing, China) have a solution that thinks outside the box—a smartwatch that has a built-in projector that instead turns your skin into the touchscreen.
Their prototype device, called LumiWatch, projects a touchscreen onto the wearer’s own skin to expand its functional area to ~40 cm2—more than five times the interactive surface area of a typical smartwatch display, the scientists report.
LumiWatch consists of five primary components:
- Logic board – 1.2GHz quad-cored CPU running Android 5.1
- Projector – 15 lumen pico laser projector that projects a 1024×600 pixel image
- Depth-sensing array – 1D depth sensing array with 10 time-of-flight sensors
- Metal enclosure – 50-mm aluminum case—just slightly bigger than a 42-mm Apple Watch
- Battery – 740mAh, 3.8 V (2.8Wh) lithium-ion battery that offers 1 hour of continuous use or an estimated 1 day of intermittent use
Watch this. (Yep, pun totally intended.)
Credit: Robert Xiao; YouTube
As cool as it is, however, unfortunately you won’t be strapping the LumiWatch to your own wrist anytime soon. The prototype needs a lot of tweaking before it can move towards commercial production. Read more about LumiWatch here.
But the scientists report that the prototype is built from just $600 of custom hardware—offering promise that the concept can be tweaked and adjusted enough to make such technology actually feasible in the near future.