Brilliant Mod Makes Smartwatches Actually Useful

By Gizmodo on at

Back in October, an analysis of the smartwatch industry found that sales were plummeting. That was quickly rebuffed by a different analysis that said sales were rising. One thing is for sure, smartwatches are boring. But this one is pretty awesome.

Using a custom smartwatch kernel, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have altered the sampling rate of a smartwatch accelerometer to 4 kHz rather than the standard 100Hz. This 3900 per cent increase opens up a whole world of applications utilising bioacoustic signals.

For one, the modded watch can facilitate Minority Report-style gestures for using interfaces. One application allows the lights in a room to be turned on with a snap, adjusted for brightness with a rotating pinch and confirmed with a flick. Another app allows a viewer to browse video services on television with a wave and make a choice with a snap. Admittedly, that one looks a lot slower than using a controller.


Image: Gierad Laput

What’s more interesting is the ability to identify grasped objects. A user can tune a guitar based on the vibrations being felt through the hand turning the pegs. A recipe application walks someone through the preparation of chocolate chip cookies and shows a progress bar for how long the chef should beat the eggs. And a Nerf gun can display the ammo load on the watch screen in real time.

The final implementation of the mod uses structured vibrations that are programmed into an acoustic tag, allowing for undetectable objects to be recognised. In one example, an office nameplate has been fitted with a tag, including a person’s contact details, and these details are transmitted to the smartwatch just by touching the nameplate.

Surely, smartwatch makers have these types of applications in mind for the future. Those manufacturers need to get on it and start showing the public what’s possible because being able to see text messages on your wrist just isn’t that exciting.[Future Interfaces Group]