In the near future, factory and maintenance workers might no longer need to rely on cumbersome clipboards or tablets to enter data or check their to-do lists. Researchers in Japan want to transform human bodies into keyboards and touchpads, so they could go hands-free.
Japanese electronic company NEC Corp announced Thursday that it had created "ARmKeypad"—a glasses and smartwatch set that displays an augmented reality keyboard on the wearer's forearm.
According to Shin Norieda, a researcher in the user interface department at NEC and the device's creator, the ARmKeypad uses the glasses to project the keyboard and record the user's finger movements as they "tap" it. The watch changes the keyboard displays and stores the user's inputs.
"I wanted to make a keyboard of the body so I created this device for people who work in maintenance or factory jobs," said Norieda in a phone call, explaining how the ARmKeypad eradicated the need for carrying around notepads. "They can just go hands-free."
Norieda developed a different version of the ARmKeypad in 2011, which users controlled by tapping different sections of their arm to control the music they were listening to. For example, tapping your upper arm would stop the music, and tapping your forearm would start it.
The current ARmKeypad is a different version that allows people to input text data such as notes into the watch by using a keyboard with letterstapping the virtual keyboard, and NEC are set to release it in 2016 to industry workers. Norieda said that some of the augmented reality visuals still need brushing up. He added that though the device was geared toward workers in factories and in the medical profession, who would benefit from the use of both hands in their jobs, he'd like to develop it for a wider consumer market in the future.
Cool Japan is a column about the quirky and serious happenings in the Japanese scientific, technological and cultural realms. It covers the unknown, the mainstream, and the otherwise interesting developments in Japan.