(Inside Science TV) – We've become experts at one finger tap, double tap, and drag to control our touch screen devices. Now computer scientist Chris Harrison of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania has developed a new technology that allows parts of your finger to do more things on touch screens, making them more powerful and user friendly.
“It’s really a simple idea that says let us use another part of our finger just like we do in the real world to access the digital information," said Harrison.
The technology is called TapSense. A prototype version listens to the sounds your fingernail, fingertip, pad of your finger or knuckle make when touching the screen.
Harrison explained that different parts of the finger make different sounds when they come in contact with a touch screen. For example, when the fleshy part of the finger touches the screen it makes a “thud” sound, but when the finger knuckle is used it makes a sharper noise.
A special microphone attached to the screen picks up the sound of different finger inputs. Then, computer software classifies each sound. A knuckle sound might open a new menu or act as a "right-click" on a computer mouse. A finger tap could capitalize letters, or your fingernail could automatically open a new web page. The current prototype can distinguish between different types of finger inputs with 95 percent accuracy. “You can move that functionality away from buttons and onto your finger,” said Harrison.
In the future, TapSense could eliminate the need for extra buttons and make better use of screen space.
“You make the interactions on them more powerful so you can do more things on a smaller space," said Harrison. Researchers have interest with smartphone and tablet manufacturers to build the technology into new touch screens. It cannot be retrofitted in today's phones and tablets.
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Chris Harrison, Carnegie Mellon University