Some clever researcher folk over at Carnegie Mellon University and ASU Tech have managed to build a smartwatch that essentially brings a smartphone-sized touchscreen to your arm.
The LumiWatch, which currently looks like a pretty bulky piece of wrist wear, measures in at 50 x 41 x 17mm, making it somewhat bigger than the likes of the 42mm Apple Watch Series 3. Inside of that hulking frame lies a 15-lumen scanned-laser projector, a ten element time-of-flight depth-sensing array, along with Android 5.1 and a quad-core CPU powering performance. There’s also enough battery on board to use the projector continuously for an hour or one day for more general use.
The combination of that hardware and software is able to deliver the 1024 x 600-pixel resolution touchscreen display that offers roughly 40cm2 of interactive surface area on the arm of the back of the hand. That would make it a significantly larger space to interact with than your typical smartwatch.
From that touchscreen, you can tap and swipe to help replicate the kind of gesture support you’d get on a smartphone. You can check the video above to see how well it works. One of the obstacles that the team of researchers faced was tackling the ability to project on the arm without any of the image distortion or warping that you can get when projecting on an irregular surface. It also had to ensure that the level of brightness was even across the surface it was being projected onto and created a swipe to unlock gesture to activate a calibration process that optimised the projection when used on different arms.
Putting the project together cost around $600, so for almost the same money it costs to buy a couple of Apple Watches. The big question is, how far are we from it becoming a reality? Well, we’ve already seen Chinese company Haier launch its Asu smartwatch with a built-in projector earlier this year, so it’s clear that it’s possible already, albeit with more limited functionality. The LumiWatch was built in collaboration with Chinese consumer electronics company ASU Tech, so maybe it’s not that far off. Once it’s worked out how to make it slimmer, of course.