Discovery News reports that a group of researchers from the University of Alberta, University of Toronto and Autodesk Research has created a device called the "Magic Finger". It fits on the end of the user's index finger like a miniature pulse oximetry and virtually turns any surface into a touchscreen. The device was presented last week at the at the 25th ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
According to the report, the device allows the wearer to use finger gestures to control devices even if they aren't present. Tovi Grossman, a scientist at Autodesk Research, said that one example would be a scenario where a user's smartphone is in his/her pocket. By using the finger-based peripheral, the user could make a swiping gesture and execute a function like making a call.
The gadget consists of two cameras, one micro RGB camera that can sense the surface of the nearest texture (shirt, pants, couch, etc), and one that can sense motion. The texture-sensing aspect means the user can program different commands that's sent to the connected device based on different textures. Thus, swiping across an arm could be a command for calling a spouse, and swiping across the back of the user's head could be a command for dismissing a call from mom.
"A technical evaluation shows that Magic Finger can accurately sense 32 textures with an accuracy of 98.9-percent," Autodesk Research claims. "We explore the interaction design space enabled by Magic Finger, and implement a number of novel interaction techniques that leverage its unique capabilities."
Discover reports that Grossman and his colleagues aren't limiting the technology to just smartphone use. Even more, he points out that Magic Finger (we need a better name for that, sorry) would be the ideal companion for Google Glasses, as Google's headset is "merely a display mechanism". Even more, the finger gadget could be used on game consoles, scan QR codes and more.
Still, he doesn't see the finger device replacing the typical desktop mouse, as it's not that accurate. For more information about the project, there's a ten-page PDF entitled "Magic Finger: Always-Available Input through Finger Instrumentation" available on the Autodesk Research website.