This touch-skin interface could be the future of wearables

SkinTrack turns your arm into an additional smartwatch interface
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What if your arm could be an extension of your smartwatch touchscreen? That's the idea behind Carnegie Mellon project, SkinTrack.

Researchers at the university created two wearable pieces of hardware that communicate with each other to allow your skin, or shirt sleeve to act as a an additional screen.

A signal emitting ring emits a high-frequency electrical signal which the wristband picks up through the electrodes inside. The tech then can track the position of your finger on your arm in a continuous manner. Amazing.

The researchers developed a proof-of-concept prototype to track side-to-side and up-and-down gestures of swiping to demonstrate the range of movement that can be captured. Discrete touches, like pressing on your skin to dial a phone number, and continuous tracking can also be detected.

Essentially all the movements you're used to making with your smartwatch have been replicated to work on your skin.

The most intriguing part of the prototype involves using your whole arm as shortcuts gallery. Apps can be dragged off the watch screen and "placed" on the arm where you can touch and bring forth again on the watch.

Hotkeys can also be accessed by drawing letters like, "N" to bring up a news app or an "A" to access your address book.

The possibilities seem endless but there are obviously still hurdles to overcome. The team told The Verge that powering the ring and changing signals - due to sweat and constant motion - are problems they are trying to figure out. Researchers also said no harm will come from the radio signals used.

It will likely be awhile before anything beyond a concept is made but the tech is incredibly promising and SkinTrack is definitely something to keep an eye on. One day, we may just see the likes of Google or Apple snatch up the technology (or researchers) for themselves.

This touch-skin interface could be the future of wearables

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Lily is a writer and editor specializing in tech, video games, marketing, education, travel writing, and creative fiction. 

She has over 10 years of experience covering the technology beat.

Lily has a passion for VR and AR technologies and was associate wearables editor at TechRadar US, before joining Wareable as US editor in 2016.

Lily will graduate in 2023 with an MFA in Creative Writing.

In her spare time, Lily can be found knee-deep in zine collaborations, novel writing, playing Dungeons & Dragons or hiking and foraging for mushrooms.

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