WatchMI intends to change how you use smartwatches

We previously shared with you some reasons to consider buying smartwatches, now researchers at the University of St Andrews are working to give you more reasons. They have devised an interaction method that adds new smartwatch controls by tapping into existing sensors already packed into the timepiece.

The smartwatch industry is relatively young so we can say it has a lot of rooms for improvement. It’s not exactly the focus of many OEMs today but there are people demanding for such to advance. We’ve only seen slow and few enhancements in every software update but we have yet to witness significant ones. Researchers from the University of St. Andrews have developed a technology that allows three main functions: Pressure Touch, Twist, and Pan Gesture Input.

Dubbed WatchMI, the series of touch-based gesture controls uses motion sensors like accelerometers and gyroscopes, which are already present in Android Wear watches for instance.

The current state of the smartwatch arena today offers only limited screen space for touch input. The video below is a demonstration of how the WatchMI address the issues and problems:

Multi-touch is still a challenge whether on a smartphone or tablet. It’s even more challenging in a smartwatch where screen is very small. It’s a fact that functions are limited on such devices. With this project, the researchers can show off the enhanced touch interaction on a smartphone. There may be existing researches with done with similar approaches but most of them relied on external hardware sensors.

But in this case, with the user keeping one finger on the screen, the WatchMi tech is able to produce three unique gestures. The first is twisting, which sounds a bit like an alternative to the rotating bezel on Samsung’s Gear S2.


Next up is panning, creating a joystick-style interaction and last up is pressure touch to recognise different pressures applied to the touchscreen. Think Force Touch on the Apple Watch. You can see it in action on an Android Wear watch in the video above.

It’s hoped that the system can improve smartwatch interactions in a host of ways including navigating maps, turning up the volume, playing games or making it easier to hammer out text messages.

However, it might take a while since the manufacturers actually get on board and try this out. So meanwhile we just have to wait and see how this technology evolves over time.

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