Expanding the input expressivity of smartwatches

Robert Xiao, Gierad Laput, and Chris Harrison, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh PA

June 01, 2014

Robert Xiao, Gierad Laput, and Chris Harrison, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh PAJune 01, 2014

The wristwatch has been an ever-present wearable technology since its inception in the early 1900s, and has under- gone continuous technical refinement since that time. Researchers have long viewed the immediacy and ubiquity of the wristwatch as a vehicle for computation, pushing its capabilities to ever-greater heights. In 2000, IBM demonstrated the first watch running a full operating system.

However, unlike smartphones, which can be scaled to a variety of sizes, smartwatches must be small and unobtrusive in order to remain socially acceptable, which has long limited their practicality.

Recently, smartwatches have experienced a resurgence of interest as electronics have become more powerful and power efficient, making them more practical and capable than ever before. Products like the Pebble smartwatch have been popularized in the public press, and prominent manu- facturers such as Qualcomm, Sony, Motorola and Samsung have each recently released their own smartwatches. These devices rely on small buttons and/or touchscreens for input.

In this paper, we propose using the watch face as a multi-degree-of- freedom mechanical interface. Our proof-of-concept smart- watch supports continuous 2D panning and twist, as well as binary tilt and click. This input approach can operate in parallel with buttons, touchscreens and voice, offering greater expressivity in the same compact form.

Our prototype has four primary compo- nents. The topmost element is a 1.5-inch TFT LCD color display with a resolution of 280 x 220 pixels. This display is mounted on top of a pair of N35P112 Hall-effect joystick sensors, set apart by 35mm (attached to the left and right bezel of the display). These sensors capture 2D movements with a maximum displacement of 0.5mm. Additionally, each sensor has a binary click action perpendicular to the movement plane.

To illustrate the potential of our approach, we developed a series of example applications, many of which are cumbersome – or even impossible – on today’s smartwatch devices.

To read this external content in full, download the complete paper from Chris Harrison's online archive.

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