[FoRK] Skinput: Appropriating the Body as an Input Surface

Lucas Gonze lucas.gonze at gmail.com
Mon Apr 12 10:05:59 PDT 2010

Time to cybersex reference: T minus zero.

Also: it's an inspiring idea.  Makes me think of Anne Sullivan
spelling words by touching Helen Keller's palm.

On Mon, Apr 12, 2010 at 9:50 AM, Stephen Williams <sdw at lig.net> wrote:
> Very nice!  Clearly a big win.
> http://www.chrisharrison.net/projects/skinput/
>> Devices with significant computational power and capabilities can now be
>> easily carried on our bodies. However, their small size typically leads to
>> limited interaction space (e.g., diminutive screens, buttons, and jog
>> wheels) and consequently diminishes their usability and functionality. Since
>> we cannot simply make buttons and screens larger without losing the primary
>> benefit of small size, we consider alternative approaches that enhance
>> interactions with small mobile systems.
>> One option is to opportunistically appropriate surface area from the
>> environment for interactive purposes. For example, Scratch Input
>> <http://www.chrisharrison.net/projects/scratchinput/index.html> is technique
>> that allows a small mobile device to turn tables on which it rests into a
>> gestural finger input canvas. However, tables are not always present, and in
>> a mobile context, users are unlikely to want to carry appropriated surfaces
>> with them (at this point, one might as well just have a larger device).
>> However, there is one surface that has been previous overlooked as an input
>> canvas, and one that happens to always travel with us: our skin.
>> Appropriating the human body as an input device is appealing 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 (e.g., arms, upper
>> legs, torso). Furthermore, proprioception (our sense of how our body is
>> configured in three-dimensional space) allows us to accurately interact with
>> our bodies in an eyes-free manner. For example, we can readily flick each of
>> our fingers, touch the tip of our nose, and clap our hands together without
>> visual assistance. Few external input devices can claim this accurate,
>> eyes-free input characteristic and provide such a large interaction area.
>> In the paper linked below, we present our research on Skinput – a method
>> that allows the body to be appropriated for finger input using a novel,
>> non-invasive, wearable bio-acoustic sensor.
>> Download Paper (to be released April 12 @ CHI 2010)
>> Harrison, C., Tan, D. Morris, D. 2010. Skinput: Appropriating the Body as
>> an Input Surface. To appear in Proceedings of the 28th Annual SIGCHI
>> Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (Atlanta, Georgia, April 10
>> - 15, 2010). CHI '10. ACM, New York, NY.
>> Researchers
>> Chris Harrison <mailto:chris.harrison at cs.cmu.edu> - Carnegie Mellon
>> University <http://www.cmu.edu>
>> Desney Tan <http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/um/people/desney/> -
>> Microsoft Research <http://research.microsoft.com>
>> Dan Morris <http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/um/people/dan/> -
>> Microsoft Research <http://research.microsoft.com>
> http://www.pddnet.com/news-student-uses-skin-as-input-for-mobile-devices-040710/
>>  Student Uses Skin As Input For Mobile Devices
>> By Carnegie Mellon University
>> Wednesday, April 07, 2010
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>> Loading...
>> Skinput_technology_for_portable_devices
>> Chris Harrison demonstrates Skinput technology. (Credit: Image courtesy of
>> Carnegie Mellon University)
>> A combination of simple bio-acoustic sensors and some sophisticated
>> machine learning makes it possible for people to use their fingers or
>> forearms -- potentially, any part of their bodies -- as touchpads to control
>> smart phones or other mobile devices.
>> The technology, called Skinput, was developed by Chris Harrison, a
>> third-year Ph.D. student in Carnegie Mellon University's
>> <http://www.cmu.edu/> Human-Computer Interaction Institute (HCII), along
>> with Desney Tan and Dan Morris of Microsoft Research. Harrison will describe
>> the technology in a paper to be presented on April 12, at CHI 2010, the
>> Association for Computing Machinery's annual Conference on Human Factors in
>> Computing Systems in Atlanta, Ga.
>> Skinput, www.chrisharrison.net/projects/skinput/
>> <http://www.chrisharrison.net/projects/skinput/>, could help people take
>> better advantage of the tremendous computing power now available in compact
>> devices that can be easily worn or carried. The diminutive size that makes
>> smart phones, MP3 players and other devices so portable, however, also
>> severely limits the size and utility of the keypads, touchscreens and jog
>> wheels typically used to control them.
>> "With Skinput, we can use our own skin -- the body's largest organ -- as
>> an input device," Harrison says "It's kind of crazy to think we could summon
>> interfaces onto our bodies, but it turns out to make a lot of sense. Our
>> skin is always with us, and makes the ultimate interactive touch surface."
>> click here
>> <http://ad.doubleclick.net/click;h=v8/3976/0/0/%2a/o;223034909;0-0;0;15044005;237-250/250;35851460/35869314/1;;%7Esscs=%3fhttp://www.endevco.com>
>> In a prototype developed while Harrison was an intern at Microsoft
>> Research last summer, acoustic sensors are attached to the upper arm. These
>> sensors capture sound generated by such actions as flicking or tapping
>> fingers together, or tapping the forearm. This sound is not transmitted
>> through the air, but by transverse waves through the skin and by
>> longitudinal, or compressive, waves through the bones.
>> Harrison and his colleagues found that the tap of each fingertip, a tap to
>> one of five locations on the arm, or a tap to one of 10 locations on the
>> forearm produces a unique acoustic signature that machine learning programs
>> could learn to identify. These computer programs, which improve with
>> experience, were able to determine the signature of each type of tap by
>> analyzing 186 different features of the acoustic signals, including
>> frequencies and amplitude.
>> In a trial involving 20 subjects, the system was able to classify the
>> inputs with 88 percent accuracy overall. Accuracy depended in part on
>> proximity of the sensors to the input; forearm taps could be identified with
>> 96 percent accuracy when sensors were attached below the elbow, 88 percent
>> accuracy when the sensors were above the elbow. Finger flicks could be
>> identified with 97 percent accuracy.
>> "There's nothing super sophisticated about the sensor itself," Harrison
>> says, "but it does require some unusual processing. It's sort of like the
>> computer mouse -- the device mechanics themselves aren't revolutionary, but
>> are used in a revolutionary way." The sensor is an array of highly tuned
>> vibration sensors -- cantilevered piezo films.
>> The prototype armband includes both the sensor array and a small projector
>> that can superimpose colored buttons onto the wearer's forearm, which can be
>> used to navigate through menus of commands. Additionally, a keypad can be
>> projected on the palm of the hand. Simple devices, such as MP3 players,
>> might be controlled simply by tapping fingertips, without need of
>> superimposed buttons; in fact, Skinput can take advantage of proprioception
>> -- a person's sense of body configuration -- for eyes-free interaction.
>> Though the prototype is of substantial size and designed to fit the upper
>> arm, the sensor array could easily be miniaturized so that it could be worn
>> much like a wristwatch, Harrison said.
>> Testing indicates the accuracy of Skinput is reduced in heavier, fleshier
>> people and that age and sex might also affect accuracy. Running or jogging
>> also can generate noise and degrade the signals, the researchers report, but
>> the amount of testing was limited and accuracy likely would improve as the
>> machine learning programs receive more training under such conditions.
>> Harrison, who delights in "blurring the lines between technology and
>> magic," is a prodigious inventor. Last year, he launched a company, Invynt
>> LLC, to market a technology he calls "Lean and Zoom," which automatically
>> magnifies the image on a computer monitor as the user leans toward the
>> screen. He also has developed a technique to create a pseudo-3D experience
>> for video conferencing using a single webcam at each conference site.
>> Another project explored how touchscreens can be enhanced with tactile
>> buttons that can change shape as virtual interfaces on the touchscreen
>> change.
>> Skinput is an extension of an earlier invention by Harrison called Scratch
>> Input, which used acoustic microphones to enable users to control cell
>> phones and other devices by tapping or scratching on tables, walls or other
>> surfaces.
>> "Chris is a rising star," says Scott Hudson, HCII professor and Harrison's
>> faculty adviser. "Even though he's a comparatively new Ph.D. student, the
>> very innovative nature of his work has garnered a lot of attention both in
>> the HCI research community and beyond."
>> For more information visit www.cmu.edu <http://www.cmu.edu>
> sdw
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