By Chester Campbell
If you think iPads and iPhones are the coolest things around, you haven't run across the Skinput. It's the brainchild of Chris Harrison, a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University and a former intern at Microsoft Research. It can turn your hand and your forearm into a keyboard and screen.
Yep, you read that right. Want to answer a call? Just tap your thumb and middle finger together. Maybe touch your arm to go to the next track on a music player.
Sounds as far out as Dick Tracy's wrist radio did back in the old days. Hey, that's nothing now. Dan Morris, a Microsoft researcher working with Harrison on the project, says it could become commercially available in two to seven years.
These hand and finger movements would register with a device in your pocket using a Bluetooth connection. Working with a pico-projector, the Skinput system could display a full keyboard image on your forearm. Type out a text message by tapping your finger on the "keys."
Skinput users wear an armband that's lined with sensors. The sensors pick up inaudible sounds made by ripples through the skin and bones that result from the tapping. Each move makes a different sound that can be detected by the device.
The major hangup that's going to take more time is refining the accuracy. Initial tests used only five buttons. Now they're working on a full keyboard. "The accuracy is good, but it's not quite consumer-level yet," Morris said.
If you'd like to read the full description of how the Skinput works, it's at this CNN link.