Microsoft Research Cambridge’s Steve Hodges and his group of colleagues over at the Sensors and Devices group have been spending their time working on novel sensing technologies in addition to new devices which would make life easier for ordinary folk to interact with computer systems and digital content. Hmmm, this does seem to sound suspiciously like a new foray into the world of touchscreens, or has someone reinvented the reliable keyboard and mouse combination? Apparently not, as they are currently working on something that they have dubbed, “An Interactive Belt-worn Badge with a Retractable String-based Input Mechanism”, which was presented at the Association for Computing Machinery’s 2013 SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems.
Hodges said, “We interact with digital content more and more—such as electronic diaries, emails, traffic status, and weather info. But even if you have your mobile phone in your pocket, it can be a pain to interact with this content in many cases. The badge is always on hand and lets you navigate to the content you want simply by moving it to the right place relative to your body, using your spatial muscle memory. It’s much easier for quick ‘snacking’ on small amounts of digital content.”
What you see above is the lightweight, interactive badge prototype in the flesh, and as you can notice, it would come with an embedded LCD display which will show off dynamic information to the wearer, instead of the usual work badge ID that always carries your worse mugshot ever, in addition to other nitty gritty such as your work position and department among other details. This one is very different, as it boasts of sensing-based input capabilities that have been integrated within the badge’s retractable string, paving the way for single-hand interaction. Of course, plenty of work still needs to be done, especially when it comes to the design and form factor, but I am quite sure that these are challenges that the team would relish, and we hope to see a commercial solution sooner rather than later.