For those who don’t have mobility in their hands or are just always have their hands full, a simple smile may be able to send a text, make a call, or even launch a website – all thanks to earbuds that can detect facial expressions. While we know the muscles in our mouths are used to smile, the muscles around your ears are also engaged as well – shifting when you smile, frown, or even wink.
So, One Day Your Earbuds Could Control Your Phone with a Smile
Researcher Denys Matthies at the Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics Research in Germany is designing the buds that he said “could be used by people with impaired movement or as a hands-free tool for drivers.”
Matthies’ prototype basically consists of an earbud with electrodes that pick up on the nuances in different facial expressions based on movement and the change in positions of the ear canal. A reference electrode is also set up on the earlobe. This is said to cause the earbud to deform and produce a detectable change in electrical field that can be mapped to the corresponding face movement.
To date, the prototype can correctly pick up on smiling, winking, turning your head to the right, opening your mouth, and saying “shh” with an accuracy of 90 percent. Impressive!
Matthies is also looking into making a consumer version of the prototype that would only send texts or decline calls when you make certain expressions in the right context, meaning you cell won’t send a text every time you smile, but rather look for certain facial movements that correspond to answering or declining a phone call only when the phone is ringing.
Matthies will be taking his prototype earbuds to the human-computer interaction conference in Colorado in May.