A modern smartwatch is a great wearable computer that can do a lot more than just tell time. It can track user’s activities, monitor heart beat rate, synchronize with your smartphone to work as its extension, navigate you, and many more. Most of the time, operating a smartwatch requires a free hand (not the one with the watch strapped on). In certain situations, such as when you are holding something in your hand, it becomes challenging to use the smartwatch. A group of researchers from Dartmouth College and the University of Manitoba has come up with a solution called WristWhirl, exploring the potential to use the same wrist that is wearing the smartwatch as a joystick to operate the smartwatch.
In this paper, they described their prototype smartwatch that uses the wrist wearing the watch as an always-available joystick to perform common touchscreen gestures. The prototype watch is built from a 2″ TFT display and a plastic watch strap augmented with 12 infrared (940nm) proximity sensors to detect the wrist gestures. The user needs to initiate a gesture with a pinch. A piezo vibration sensor is implemented for sensing the user pinch. Once the pinch is detected, the proximity sensors are activated and ready to capture the wrist motion. The gesture must be terminated with another pinch, that will deactivate the proximity sensors to save battery power. The sensor readings are collected and processed using an Arduino DUE board.
A demo video of WristWhirl is posted below: