This $10 Chip Could Allow Smartwatches To Detect Objects You Touch

Sometimes, we see something that gives us a lot of hope for what the personal technology landscape will look like in the years to come. Today’s dose of future-based giddiness comes courtesy of the fine folks over at Carnegie Mellon University’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute and Disney Research.

What those clever people have been working on is the ability to use a $10 chip to enable, say, an Apple Watch to detect what its wearer is touching. Whether it be a door handle, a set of ladders or an electronic device, our Apple Watches could be capable of detecting what we are touching soon enough.


The technology, called EMSense, senses the magnetic field given off by anything the watch wearer is touching and then uses that to determine what the object is. It’s science at its finest, and it seems to work.

Many everyday electro-mechanical objects emit small amounts of electromagnetic noise during regular operation…. We can detect and classify EM signals in real-time, enabling quick ad robust detection of when an object is touched and what that object is. We call our approach EMSense and have built it into a prototype smartwatch.


The use cases for such a technology could be many, with one of the simplest being for a smartwatch to start a timer when its wearer picks up a specific piece of equipment or tool. EMSense strikes us as the kind of technology that has uses we can’t quite think of yet because the idea is so new to us, but once the creative juices start flowing, EMSense could be one of the best things to happen to the Apple Watch during its short life so far. Imagine EMSense put to good use in a hospital, for example.


This is why we love technology, folks. Playing Crossy Road on an Apple TV is cool, but it’s not going to change the way we work or play. Things like EMSense may not either, but we’re headed in the right direction, that’s for sure.

(Source: YouTube | via: Fast Company)

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