Computer scientists at the University of Waterloo have created a device for wearable computer input suitable for many situations, just by touching your fingertips together in different ways. For more information on this topic see the IDTechEx report on Wearable Technology Forecasts 2019-2029.
The device, called Tip-Tap, is inexpensive and battery-free through the use of radio frequency identification (RFID) tags to sense when fingertips touch. The device could, therefore, be added to disposable surgical gloves, allowing surgeons to access preoperative planning diagrams in an operating room. For more information see the IDTechEx report on RFID Forecasts, Players and Opportunities 2019-2029.
"One of the many possible applications of the device is in surgeries. What typically happens now with operation digital preplanning is that an assistant is responsible for navigating the computer and communicating with the surgeon, but this is slow and difficult," said Daniel Vogel, a professor in Waterloo's David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science. "If the surgeon tries to navigate it themselves using a touchscreen or a mouse, it's problematic because it would require constant sterilization, and current alternatives such as big gestures tracked by computer vision can get very tiring. The idea is if you mount Tip-Tap in surgical gloves, surgeons could navigate the computer themselves from where they are, and it won't affect their other actions like picking up the scalpel."
Researchers created the prototype of Tip-Tap as part of a new partnership with the National Research Council of Canada (NRC).
In developing the method, the researchers mapped the most comfortable areas on the index finger for people to touch with their thumb, and tested different designs for the input points, such as smooth, bumps, or magnets. Following user tests with an early "wired" prototype to benchmark performance, they tackled the problem of making it "battery-free."
The researchers were able to make Tip-Tap battery-free by splitting the antenna of an RFID tag in two, and equipping each side with three chips to enable two-dimensions of fingertip input, the first time this had ever been done. The new RFID tag can be integrated into a glove or attached directly on the skin as a temporary tattoo. For more information see the IDTechEx report on Battery Elimination in Electronics and Electrical Engineering 2018-2028.
"We used this design in two prototype Tip-Tap devices, a glove with a range of four meters, and an on-skin tattoo," said Vogel. "Such devices are useful for issuing simple commands when a user cannot easily hold an input device, and the usage context is a defined area — for example, factory workers, surgeons, or people exercising in a gym. This is the only device of its kind that we're aware of that doesn't require a battery or cumbersome wires to make it work."
Source and top image: University of Waterloo
Learn more at the next leading event on the topic: Healthcare Sensor Innovations USA 2020 on 17 - 18 Mar 2020 at San Jose, USA hosted by IDTechEx.