WatchMI wants to bring new gesture controls to existing smartwatches

Innovative system could improve gaming and typing out texts
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We recently wrote about how companies are finding clever ways to flip the script with smartwatch design, making it easier to interact with our wrist-worn wearables.

Now researchers at the University of St Andrews have devised an interaction method that adds new smartwatch controls by tapping into existing sensors already packed into the timepiece.

Read this: The best smartwatches 2021

Dubbed WatchMI, the series of touch-based gesture controls uses motion sensors like accelerometers and gyroscopes, which are already present in Android Wear watches for instance.

With the user keeping one finger on the screen, the WatchMi tech is able to produce three unique gestures. The first is twisting, which sounds a bit like an alternative to the rotating bezel on Samsung's Gear S2.

Next up is panning, creating a joystick-style interaction and last up is pressure touch to recognise different pressures applied to the touchscreen. Think Force Touch on the Apple Watch. You can see it in action on an Android Wear watch in the video above.

It's hoped that the system can improve smartwatch interactions in a host of ways including navigating maps, turning up the volume, playing games or making it easier to hammer out text messages.

Hui-Shyong Yeo, postgraduate researcher in the School of Computer Science, is leading the project and believes the tech could similarly be applied to fitness trackers as well.

The team responsible for WatchMi are going to be showcasing the interaction tech at the MobileHCI 2016 conference in September. Here's hoping the folks at Google responsible for Android Wear are keeping a close eye on it.

How we test

Michael Sawh


Michael Sawh has been covering the wearable tech industry since the very first Fitbit landed back in 2011. Previously the resident wearable tech expert at Trusted Reviews, he also marshaled the features section of

He also regularly contributed to T3 magazine when they needed someone to talk about fitness trackers, running watches, headphones, tablets, and phones.

Michael writes for GQ, Wired, Coach Mag, Metro, MSN, BBC Focus, Stuff, TechRadar and has made several appearances on the BBC Travel Show to talk all things tech. 

Michael is a lover of all things sports and fitness-tech related, clocking up over 15 marathons and has put in serious hours in the pool all in the name of testing every fitness wearable going. Expect to see him with a minimum of two wearables at any given time.

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