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These Earbuds Allow You To Control Your Phone With A Wink or Smile

Researchers created earbuds that can detect different facial expressions and translate them to smartphone commands.


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You can now send a text by simply smiling. Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics Research have created prototype earbuds that can detect facial expressions and translate them to smartphone controls. You can take a photo by winking or answer a call by opening your mouth. This device could help users with impaired movement or just provide a hands-free interface for drivers.

“We’re not trying to replace current input methods, just complement them,” says Denys Matthies, one of the researchers involved in the project. Taking your phone out of your pocket or looking down on your screen can be rude in some social settings, so it’d be nice to be able to pause or place your music and answer a phone call without doing so.

Source: Daily Mail UK

The earbud is a prototype system with electrodes integrated into it, and can detect changes in the shape of your ear canal when you make different facial expressions. This system works because when you change your facial expression by, say, smiling, the muscles in your ear move as well, which then causes the ear canal change form and produce a change in the electrical field which can then be detected by the system and mapped to the corresponding expression.

For now, the prototype can detect 5 kinds of facial expressions: smiling, winking, turning your head to the right, opening your mouth, and saying “shh”, with an accuracy of 90 percent. “It’s currently still just a research project, but something as simple as answering a call with a facial expression could be possible soon,” says Matthies. It also gives people with movement disabilities more options to interact with their device.

Source: Daily Mail UK

If the product ever reaches the market, the researchers say they can help keep the system from reacting during false positives (i.e. playing and pausing the music by smiling by accident) by taking into account the context of the situation, like only looking for movements that correspond to answering or declining a call only when there’s actually someone calling.

People nowadays are looking for more “socially unobtrusive” ways to interact with their devices, says Daniel Ashbrook of the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, who works with hands-free user interfaces. “It can be rude or inappropriate to look down at your phone and say, ‘Hey Siri block that call.”

Hands-free technology like this could help solve this issue. “It takes four seconds to get your phone out of your pocket and in a position to do something meaningful,” explains Ashbrook, “so anything you can do in that time with just an earbud is a big win.”

The team’s research will be presented at the human–computer interaction conference in Denver, Colorado, in May.

Article Sources:

New Scientist

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