Researchers at MIT have come up with a novel way to interact with wireless devices a miniaturized trackpad so small that it can be stuck onto a user's thumbnail.
NailO, as the device is called, is the brainchild of media arts and sciences grad student Cindy Hsin-Liu Kao, a native of Taiwan, who came up with the idea when she couldn't find the nail art stickers popular in that country in the U.S. She called the device "unobtrusive."
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"When I put this on, it becomes part of my body. I have the power to take it off, so it still gives you control over it," she said. "But it allows this very close connection to your body."
Part of the idea is semi-hands-free operation one example cited in the explanatory video was using it while cooking. (Though you'd presumably want to avoid getting food on it or dropping it into soup.)
Co-creator Artem Dementyev said that it wasn't easy to pack all the necessary hardware into a device no bigger than an outsized thumbnail.
"The hardest part was probably the antenna design," he said. "You have to put the antenna far enough away from the chips so that it doesn't interfere with them."
The NailO uses the same capacitive technology as smartphone screens and connects via Bluetooth to parent devices. Hsin-Liu Kao and Dementyev have investigated the possibility of using advanced battery technology to improve usage time, as well as a custom chip that combines the Bluetooth radio, capacitive sensor and microcontroller into a single unit.
You won't be able to get a NailO of your own for some time, however it's still a prototype, with the inventors scheduled to present their findings, in the form of an academic paper, to the ACM Computer-Human Interaction conference in Seoul next week.