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Facebook develops arm cast that lets you read emails on your skin

Facebook has developed a futuristic device that allows users to read emails and text messages with their skin.

A cast-like device is strapped onto the user’s arm that uses haptic sensors to transmit waves in certain patterns.  

The patterns feel like subtle pokes on the skin that represent a spoken or written language.

Its developers say the novel technology could curb smartphone addiction and even help people with visual and auditory impairments communicate. 

 

Facebook has developed a futuristic device that allows users to read emails and text messages with their skin. It’s a cast-like device (pictured) that’s strapped onto the user’s arm 

The prototype wearable was revealed in a research paper published earlier this month, but Facebook presented the work this week at a conference in Canada.

In the study, the scientists show how people can learn how to use the device when assisted by an easy-to-use application.

Users receive slight vibrations on their arm that are coded into ‘phonemes’, which is a unit of spoken language that’s applicable to all languages, making it easy to learn.

So easy, in fact, that Facebook researchers say that participants were able to learn four different phonemes in just three minutes.  

‘Our demonstration shows that naïve users can quickly learn the tactile coding, generalize it to new words, and use them in structured sentences for everyday discreet communication, all within 3 minutes,’ the study explains. 

Participants were able to recognize 100 words after an hour and a half of training, Ali Israr, who led the study, told MIT Technology Review. 

Facebook researchers developed a 'cast-like device' (pictured) that has two 8-tactor displays. The 'tactors' send small vibrations onto the users' arms to represent words and sounds

Facebook researchers developed a ‘cast-like device’ (pictured) that has two 8-tactor displays. The ‘tactors’ send small vibrations onto the users’ arms to represent words and sounds

They also developed an easy-to-use application that familiarizes users with the device, allowing them to recognize which vibrations match up with different 'phonemes' 

They also developed an easy-to-use application that familiarizes users with the device, allowing them to recognize which vibrations match up with different ‘phonemes’ 

The researchers took some cues from braille as an example of how touch or vibration can be used to communicate.  

The cast is outfitted with two displays that each have eight tactors, or voice coils, surrounded by a 3D printed case and embedded with a foam sheet.  

Vibrations are delivered in 250hz waves and the taps that are felt on the arm only last about 144 milliseconds. 

‘We use the forearm as the medium because it has a better tactile sensitivity than most body parts, is less likely to disrupt daily activity compared to the hand and is more socially acceptable than the forehead or feet,’ the researchers said. 

To that end, the researchers used phonemes because they’re easier to transmit than letters. 

In order to transmit phonemes, the researchers had to make sure they differentiate between voiced and voiceless consonants. 

For example, sounds like ‘ba’, ‘da’ and ‘ga’ are articulated using the lips, gums and roof of the mouth, while ‘pa’ and ‘ta’ are only articulated using air. 

To differentiate between the two, the system either sends a burst of waves or a single wave. 

WILL YOU SOON BE ABLE TO READ EMAILS WITH YOUR SKIN?

Facebook has developed a futuristic device that allows users to read emails and text messages with their skin.

The cast-like wearable has two displays with eight nodes each that send out vibrations in 250hz waves (pictured)

The cast-like wearable has two displays with eight nodes each that send out vibrations in 250hz waves (pictured)

A cast-like device is strapped onto the user’s arm that uses haptic sensors to transmit waves in certain patterns.  

The patterns feel like subtle pokes on the skin that represent a spoken or written language.

Its developers say the novel technology could curb smartphone addiction and even help people with visual and auditory impairments communicate. 

The cast-like wearable has two displays with eight nodes each that send out vibrations in 250hz waves.

Taps on the arm only last about 144 milliseconds. 

Vibrations are differentiated between voiced and voiceless consonants so that users can understand different ‘phonemes’, or a unit of language. 

For example, sounds like ‘ba’, ‘da’ and ‘ga’ are articulated using the lips, gums and roof of the mouth, while ‘pa’ and ‘ta’ are only articulated using air. 

To differentiate between the two, the system either sends a burst of waves or a single wave. 

These haptic stimuli that are felt on the arm can be easily taught to users, with some reportedly learning 100 words in just an hour and a half of use.    

The goal is that the device can replace the need for users to constantly and obsessively check their phones, tablets and smartwatches. 

Facebook researchers noted that smartphone users check their devices about 47 times per day on average. 

It can be appealing to abandon devices completely, but as they’ve become more ingrained into society, scientists are trying to discover new ways that devices can be less disruptive in our daily lives. 

‘Clearly there is a need to build a system that can transmit messages to the receiver without disturbing people around the receiver, especially if the message requires immediate attention,’ the study said. 

‘In short, the users can receive meaningful messages on their arms by feeling the vibrotactile stimuli, instead of inconveniently taking out and looking at their smart devices’.

Additionally, the system could be adapted for use by people with disabilities. 

‘For the blind, fingers can be freed to type while receiving messages through the arm,’ the researchers said.

‘For people with impaired hearing, their visual sense will no longer be overwhelmed by sign language and other visual information,’

‘Blind-deaf people can do speechreading independently and easily without the presence of a speaker and placing their hand on the speaker’s face’, they added. 

Facebook's secretive Building 8 project is working on radical touch interfaces that transmit information through skin, boss Regina Dugan at the firm's developer conference

Facebook’s secretive Building 8 project is working on radical touch interfaces that transmit information through skin, boss Regina Dugan at the firm’s developer conference

Regina Dugan, the head of Facebook's secretive building 8, revealed the project at Facebook's annual F8 developer conference in San Jose last year 

Regina Dugan, the head of Facebook’s secretive building 8, revealed the project at Facebook’s annual F8 developer conference in San Jose last year 

Facebook first eluded to some details about the futuristic wearable at its F8 developers conference in 2017.

During a presentation by Regina Dugan, who heads Facebook’s secretive Building 8 hardware division, she spoke about ‘optical sensors’ that could allow people to type at speeds of 100 words per minute simply by thinking. 

She also outlined a ‘silent typing’ system, and said it could mean and end to constantly checking our phones. 

The system would allow users to ‘text a friend without taking out your phone, or send an email without leaving the party’. 



Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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