Although smartwatches were designed to be an easy-to-use alternative for your smartphone, interacting with their touchscreens still requires your opposite hand to be free. So what do you do when you’re carrying a bag of groceries or holding onto a bus handle?
This is the problem a Dartmouth-led team set out to solve with WristWhirl, a smartwatch prototype that uses the wrist wearing the device as a joystick to perform common touchscreen gestures with one-handed continuous input, while freeing up the other hand for other tasks.
WristWhirl was built using a two-inch TFT display and a plastic watch strap equipped with a dozen infrared proximity sensors and a piezo vibration sensor, which is connected to an Arduino Due board. Commands are then made by moving the hand as if it were operating a joystick, while a finger pinch turns the sensors on/off to indicate the start or end of a gesture.
For starters, the team implemented four sample applications with off-the-shelf games and Google Maps to illustrate potential use cases.
Four usage scenarios for WristWhirl were tested: 1) a gesture shortcuts app was created, which allowed users to access shortcuts by drawing gestures; 2) a music player app was created, which allowed users to scroll through songs through wrist-swipes and play a selected song by double tapping the thumb and index fingers; 3) a map app was implemented for which 2D maps could be panned and zoomed depending on where the watch was held in relation to one’s body; and 4) game input, which often requires continuous input was tested, for which Tetris was played using a combination of wrist swipes, wrist extension and wrist flexion.
You can read more about the project on its page here, as well as see a demonstration of it below!