Carnegie Mellon prototype shows interface value of smartwatch

May 16, 2014 by Nancy Owano weblog

The smartwatch is an interesting form factor but a Carnegie Mellon team that is focused on interfaces noted its limitations and addressed the size challenge. Because the device is worn on the wrist, the sophistication of interactions that people can perform on it is limited. The team suggested a workable approach that can make the smartwatch capable of offering enhanced convenience in information access and retrieval. The Carnegie Mellon team came up with a smartwatch that uses the watch face as the multi-degree of freedom interface without having to occlude the screen with fingers.

The components of their prototype are designed in such a way that the user can twist, tilt, and click, all for enhanced control. To illustrate their approach, the group, Robert Xiao, Gierad Laput and Chris Harrison, walked viewers through a number of applications in their video. The group is from the university's Future Interface Group at the Human-Computer Interaction Institute. (The Future Interfaces Group [FIG] is an interdisciplinary research laboratory. Its site description reads "We create new sensing and interface technologies.")

The video demonstrates how simple tilts, clicks, and twists around the screen accomplish various tasks. These include setting an alarm, viewing a map, taking a picture, and checking out a calendar. Depending on the task and the motion, whether clicking or tilting, or twisting, one can bring up information on a highlighted calendar event, navigate through a music menu, and set a desired time for an alarm.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

The group built their prototype, made the video, and they also delivered their paper on the watch at the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Toronto. "Expanding the Input Expressivity of Smartwatches with Mechanical Pan, Twist, Tilt and Click" by Xiao, Laput, and Harrison discussed the details of their prototype, which features a 1.5-inch LCD color display with a resolution of 280 x 220 pixels. Two sensors capture the interactions. The two sensors are connected to an ARM Cortex M3-based Maple Mini over an I2C bus. Data is sent via USB to a host computer, where a Java program processes the inputs and implements an interactive application. The graphical output of this application is sent to the display

Quoted in MIT Technology Review, Carnegie Mellon's Chris Harrison, an assistant professor of who worked on the project, said the researchers, in making the watch, tried adhering to some rules: it should not feel cramped to use; users should not have to lift their fingers from the screen while using it.

They wrote in their paper, "Our approach is inexpensive, potentially compact, and can complement existing inputs, such as physical buttons, touch and voice."

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5 / 5 (1) May 16, 2014
The real value is to advertisers, marketers and the Obama administration for keeping track of your movements. Sure it has some conveniences, but the watchful eye of the government and even hackers can know when you are not home.
1 / 5 (1) May 16, 2014
Corporations, not OUR Government, are the real enemies, unless a person is some kind of separatist radical. This President has not forced our country into ruinous, meaningless, illegal wars or near Depressions. Scandals for the last President were not made up, but then again, he wasn't black.
5 / 5 (2) May 16, 2014
Government has been racking up debt for future generations to pay off. Taking from our children is about as low as it gets. For all politicians talk of patriotism, they have been extremely irresponsible the last 14 years. I don't blame just Bush jr and Obama. Congress could have passed a balanced budget amendment long ago and forced prioritization of funds and avoided the long term damage of debt. One of the few failures of the Constitution was to allow debt taxation to fall on those who never had a vote regarding its creation.
1 / 5 (1) May 16, 2014
But none of that has anything to do with the smart watch of the article, which in my opinion is brilliant. I didn't think smart watches were practical, but now I do.
3 / 5 (1) May 17, 2014
ok..thats very cool
2 / 5 (1) May 17, 2014
I'm not convinced there's a niche for smart watches, but we'll see. Regarding ways to input, deemphasizing the touch screen on such a small device seems reasonable, but if you're going to move the hand away from the screen, why not allow it to be anywhere - not even near the device? Outfit the free hand with accelerometers, strain gages, whatever. Maybe even per finger. Use a wireless transmitter (e.g. Bluetooth). Then you have freedom to use this input device with watches, phones, goggles/glasses displays, etc.
Lex Talonis
5 / 5 (1) May 17, 2014
All the smart watches of the past - with calculators and all sort of shit in them...

They have all failed - because of one ultimate issue.

People don't like fucking around with small pissy fiddly things.

Watching movies on a postage stamp sized screen?


Bring the family over with you.
not rated yet May 18, 2014
I want an inexpensive watch that links to my phone so that I don't miss calls when I am doing something like yard work and don't want to risk damaging my phone by carrying it with me. Oh, and it should display the correct time and date in an easily readable format. Bonus apps? How about a button that will ring my phone when I've misplaced it. Nothing else!

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