A new device developed by Kei Nakatsuma at University of Tokyo Department of Information Physics and Computing lets you use the back of your hand as a touch pad. Encased in the form of a wrist-watch, the device uses infrared sensors to track the movement of your finger across the back of your hand and translate it into the same sort of signals a mouse or a laptop touch pad provides.
This may seem sort of trivial, but there are some interesting uses this functionality could provide. First of all, since you can feel the back of your hand and feel with the back of your hand, you’ve got built-in haptic feedback. Secondly, in this increasingly digital world, it could be very useful if everyone had their own interface by which to interact with all the digital things in their lives. No more losing the remote or touching a filthy public number pad, you just use the back of your hand.
As you’ve probably come to expect, this technology, although it has enormous potential, is still in its infancy. For the time being, the device is fairly large, has trouble reading input in direct sunlight (on account of using infrared tracking) and can only support simple one-to-one cursor moving, no pinch-to-zoom yet. However, none of these problems are insurmountable and if new iterations can overcome these problems and get the size down to that of a normal watch, or maybe even those silicone gel bracelets that were all the rage a few years ago, this technology could become quite pervasive. After all, it just provides a different way to send the same kind of input we’ve been using for years and it’d be pretty trivial to configure any device for a new mouse input. Compare that to the complexity of accommodating gesture control and I think it’s pretty easy to see what comes out on top.
Also, you aren’t going to break someone’s nose using the back of your hand as a mouse, so, there’s that too.