Researchers in Germany have a developed a wafer thin e-skin wearable that detects the Earth’s magnetic fields and can be used to control devices or for navigation.
Touchscreen technology is advancing towards greater levels of interaction. We have already covered a few examples of the idea of gesture control, where users can, interact with autonomous cars or turn on the TV by simply waving their hand. However, now researchers in Germany have gone one step further and have developed a new method of gesture control powered by the Earth itself.
The researchers, based in the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR), have developed an e-skin (electronic-skin) wearable that turns the Earth’s magnetic field into a signal. The wearable is a few thin strips of permalloy (a magnetic alloy of iron and nickel), which detects the Earth’s magnetic field. This combined with thin strips of gold, enables the conduction of electricity. A user wraps these thin metal strips around their fingers to activate the wearable. The geomagnetic detection of the permalloy combined with the conductive gold, when arranged in a specific way (with the gold strips placed at 45-degree angles), creates an electronic signal with varying strength. If the user points their finger North, the signal is stronger, whereas if they point South the signal becomes weaker.
The researchers applied this e-skin to a simple video game. Users were able to control simple directional movements of an onscreen avatar by pointing North or South. Additionally, scientists advise, the e-skin gives humans an extra sense of magnetoception, which is how birds navigate when they migrate. Whether this will become more useful than google maps in the future remains to be seen.