Electronic Design

Let Your Fingers Do The Computing

Imagine a small device that slips onto the tip of your index finger and replaces your joysticks, mouse, and even your keyboard. It soon will be possible thanks to a breakthrough at the University of Buffalo’s Virtual Reality Lab, where Young-Seok Kim and Thenkurussi Kesavadas have developed the Fingertip Digitizer.

This thimble-sized device uses a force sensor, an accelerometer, and a motion tracker to sense touch and movement. A real-time, multirate data-acquisition system reads hand gestures by tracking the device’s location and acceleration. The system also reads the force feedback objects exert as the user touches them.

“The gesture-recognition function of this device, in particular, has great potential for a wide range of applications, from personal computing to medical diagnostics to video games,” says Kim.

The designers say the Fingertip Digitizer can provide very precise information about an object’s physical characteristics—for example, sensing the size and shape of a human gland or tumor and reporting that information directly to a computer. Or, it could be used in gaming applications as a virtual trigger.

Previous haptic technologies have been designed as probes that can be gripped like pens. But this makes them difficult to manipulate and affects their precision. Kim and Kesavadas, though, modeled the Fingertip Digitizer after the finger’s biomechanical properties. They expect the device and related software to be ready in three years. They’re also developing Touch Painter and Touch Canvas software for digital artists.

University of Buffalo

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