Google Wants You to Control Your Gadgets with Finger Gestures, Conductive Clothing
This swatch of fabric has a grid of conductive yarn woven through it that allows it to act like a touchpad when connected to a few simple electronics.
New Google technology addresses the tiny screen problem by letting you control wearables with tiny gestures, or by touching your clothes.
Small gadgets such as smart watches can be frustrating to use because their tiny buttons and touch screens are tricky to operate. Google has two possible solutions for the fat finger problem: control your gadgets by subtly rubbing your finger and thumb together, or by swiping a grid of conductive yarn woven into your clothing.
The first of those two ideas works thanks to a tiny radar sensor that could be integrated into, say, a smart watch and can detect fine motions of your hands from a distance and even through clothing. Levi Strauss announced today that it is working with Google to integrate fabric touch panels into its clothing designs. The new projects were announced at Google’s annual developer conference in San Francisco Friday by Ivan Poupyrev, a technical program lead in Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects research group.
The current prototype of Google’s radar sensor is roughly two centimeters square. It can pick up very fine motions of your hands at distances from five centimeters up to five meters.
Poupyrev showed how he could circle his thumb around the tip of his forefinger near the sensor to turn a virtual dial. Swiping his thumb across his fingertip repeatedly scrolled through a list.
“You could use your virtual touchpad to control the map on the watch, or a virtual dial to control radio stations,” said Poupyrev. “Your hand can become a completely self-contained interface control, always with you, easy to use and very, very, ergonomic. It can be the only interface control that you would ever need for wearables.”
Poupyrev also showed how he could perform the same motion in different places to control different things. He used the scrolling gesture to adjust the hour on a digital clock, then moved his hand about a foot higher and used the same motion to adjust the minutes.
No details were given on what kind of devices the radar sensor might be built into. But Poupyrev did say the sensors can be mass produced, and he showed a silicon wafer, made by the chip company Infineon, covered in many of the devices.