New Smarter Smart Watch Abandons Touch Screens

By Joelle Renstrom | 7 years ago

smartwatch1By most accounts, Samsung’s smart watch wasn’t half as cool as the commercial. People generally saw the device as another gadget to carry around in addition to a phone. And trying to work a touch screen that small has to be frustrating (a new goal for bionic hands, perhaps?). It seems that if smart watches are to succeed in the marketplace, and certainly if they’re to replace and not just augment smart phones, they need to develop a more user-friendly interface. One idea developed by researchers is a smart watch that that can you can tip, tilt and twist, thereby taking clumsy fingers out of the equation.

Chris Harrison, professor of human-computer interaction at Carnegie Mellon, has developed the prototype with the help of his colleagues, and they recently presented a paper on it at the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. One of the big goals was lack of restriction in terms of use—in other words, avoiding the cramped, fumbling feeling of tiny touch screens. The display on this watch is 1.5 inches across, and displacement sensors register the screen movements along both vertical and horizontal access.

It’s surprising how many movements one can get out of this system, especially when you consider that the screen can be twisted clockwise or counterclockwise or tipped up or down. Thus, a user could set an alarm via clicks and twists, tilt the screen to scroll across a map, or twist the device to zoom in on a particular point. Researchers even modified Doom for play on the watch. Harrison points out that their model is compatible with other technologies, including buttons and touch screens.

In future versions, Harrison says that they might replace the mechanical sensors with pressure-based ones in order to decrease size and increase sensitivity. Still, I have to wonder how long the battery of such a phone would last and how fragile the parts might be. In another project, Harrison is working on ways to manipulate smart watches without touching them at all…but he’s keeping those details close to the vest. Personally, I’m waiting for a Babylon 5-style communications link so I can summon the White Star at will, but I’ll likely have to wait a while for that one. Good thing I’m patient.