Is Your Body Your Next Mobile Device?

Imagine holding up your hand to see a map of your surroundings or tapping a text message on your palm. It sounds like science fiction, but it’s possible with the latest advancements in motion sensor technology.

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If you thought that you looked cool going through your day with white headphone wires framing your face, one hand holding your movie-playing tablet and the other hand feverishly texting on your smartphone … think again.

A group of researchers at Carnegie Mellon University has made great strides towards eliminating those clunky contraptions that you now call computer interfaces. They think that your own body would make a much better medium. Building on recent advances like the Skinput and Kinect technologies, the Carnegie Mellon team has developed the Armura system, an interactive on-body input/output platform.

Imagine how, using bio-acoustic or electrical sensing, each of your knuckles would become an input key that you can tap with another finger while search results and soft key menus are beamed by pico-projectors onto the surface of your palm. Other surfaces on your body can also be used, such as the back of your hand, your forearm, your arm and your … well, they stopped there for the time being.

Armura can also detect and act on your gestures or positions. For example, you can point your hand at a flat object and turn it – à la Star Trek – into an effective display screen. You can also turn your body and use your arm to get directions to your nearby surroundings – extremely useful if you’re trying to locate a store in the mall. Want to read a book? Simply put your hands in front of your face and the pages will be clearly displayed on your palms. Just clap your hands to turn the pages.

Armura is still a prototype. It does not include on-body hardware yet, and it works only in a lab where researchers use a special projector and an infrared camera that records sixty 480×640 images per second.

However, it is clear where the technology is going. The next time you see someone bizarrely scratching their hands and making incoherent gestures, do not assume that they are the victims of a terrible itch. They may just be computing … and likely pumping even more data onto your network.

What possibilities do you see for this technology? Feel free to share your thoughts and comments below.


Humanized BYOD: Famous Cyborgs in IT History


  • Joan Rivers – Known as the greatest of all female cyborgs, Joan Rivers credits her youthful appearance to 739 plastic surgeries (and counting). As Joan ages, her superpowers only increase – allowing her to perform feats such as crashing every red carpet and saying whatever the *bleep* she wants. And let's not forget about her role as Dot Matrix is one of the greatest cinematic masterpieces, Spaceballs. (Image by
  • Mats Sundin – Although not commonly known, Sundin was Nokia’s first-generation prototype for its ‘smart hockey player’ systems that were not ultimately brought to the mass market because of high production costs. Currently, the Sedin brothers are the only confirmed cyborgs in the NHL.
  • Steve Mann – An early proponent of wearable computing. This Canadian performance artist and university professor had previously created wearable systems featuring video and surveillance capabilities, often presented on his body in codpiece-based systems exploding with cables and beeping lights.
  • The Six Million Dollar Man – A 1970s TV show in which Lee Austin, an American secret agent, is rebuilt with ‘bionic implants’ after a plane crash. He could run at speeds up to 100km per hour, and his eyes had a 20:1 zoom lens and infrared capabilities. The actor who played Austin, Lee Majors, was also temporarily famous for marrying celebrity-cyborg Farrah Fawcett.
  • The Borg – A fictional pseudo-race of cybernetic organisms depicted in the Star Trek universe. The Borg use abduction and ‘assimilation’ (enforced cybernetic enhancement and connection to the hive mind) as a means of ‘achieving perfection’. Bjorn Borg, the legendarily robotic tennis player, was evidently named in honor of the fictional Borg. (Image by
  • Frankenstein – The generally accepted name of the Gothic monster-cyborg brought to life in the 1818 novel by Mary Shelley. IT historians have been unable to determine which operating system was involved in the R&D work, but apparently it predates even the earliest beta versions of MS-DOS. (Image by

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