The Wearable Mouse

March 11, 2014

Wearable techOne of the major trends at SXSW this year is wearable technology. There are over 60 conference sessions covering the topic alone, including smart hats, shirts, shoes and more. In the near future, your wardrobe will not only need to match in color, but also by Wi-Fi connections.

The topic of gesture mechanics (controlling computers by motion) was really big at SXSW a few years ago when the Xbox Kinect first launched. Combine this with components of wearable technology, and you may have the next generation of user interfaces.

It did not take long for users to become familiar with touchscreen devices and the pinch, pull and swipe method of interaction on them. Gesture navigation, via touchless interaction, is the next step in this process.

It’s already available in rudimentary forms via Leap Motion devices; however, this still requires you to sit in front of a computer or other device and wave your hands up, down and around to control items on the screen.

Combine this technology with Google Glass, and you have the first consumer portable interface to break away from the “sit or hold” approach of computer interaction.

As the Internet becomes more wearable, a new method of interacting with content is necessary. Most users will not want to walk around with their hands glued to their glasses or talking out loud to engage with visuals.

The first step towards getting away from the current content interaction is a glove with embedded motion tracking sensors. Moving your hands around could then manipulate images viewed through your glasses, but constantly needing to wear a glove (not to mention the fashion coordination) does not make this an ideal solution.

A better idea lies a few inches below your hands. Your forearm muscles control your hand gestures, therefore tracking those muscle actions can eliminate the need to have sensors on your hands. You can still make hand movements, squeezes, flicks and swipes to control viewable content, and it won’t be as obvious to those around you.

The future is already (almost) here. Thalmic Labs has developed a tracker with its Myo gesture control armband, which begins shipping later this year. It’s a bit bulky now, but imagine it a few generations older when it’s become part of your long sleeve shirt lining or embedded in your jacket sleeve.

Wearable technology is still in its infancy stage, but it will be really exciting to watch it evolve and combine with other technologies.

Stephen is a EVP, Executive Director at Ketchum.