Researchers in Taiwan are developing a remote control system that will turn finger-nails into mini-display screens. Using wirelessly- enabled, light emitting diodes the team says the technology could revolutionise the way we control and use devices such as smart phones and tablets.
The prototype is mounted on a clunky thumb ring, but for fat-fingered smart-screen users, it could herald a breakthrough. The display is designed to reveal screen images or characters obscured by a thumb or a finger. When using a touch screen, words and images are often blocked by the size of the user's finger, but NailDisplay helps overcome the problem by bringing to the top what's underneath the finger, allowing the user to press on small targets.
One day, says Professor Chen-Bing Yu, of the National Taiwan University Communications and Multimedia Laboratory, the prototype will have evolved into an organic light-emitting coating that can be painted onto a fingernail, transforming it an interactive display screen..
"We often say that with a touch screen, you touch what you see, but you can't see it when you are touching it, so we wondered if we could see what we touch. Starting with this concept and adding it to the wearable devices we've been working on in the past few years, that was how we came up with the nail display," he said.
Researcher Chan Liwei says the system will one day be wireless, although it must also be user friendly.
"We thought about how to control the device when we made it, because the screen is very small, and we wondered if it was really usable. We tried to display different words and symbols to see when they became too small for the human eyes, and to understand what types of symbols are the easiest to comprehend," said Chan, a postdoctoral fellow at the Academia Sinica Research Center forInformation Technology Innovation.
If they're successful, the device will have other applications as well. The prototype houses an accelerometer, allowing portable devices like music players to be controlled by simple finger movements, or cell phones to be answered remotely.
The researchers say it may take some time to reach their ultimate goal but they believe a future of interactive, wearable devices, is at their fingertips.