A keyboard in your forearm?

Researchers have come up with a touch-responsive fabric armband that can pave the way for flexible keyboards and wearable sketchpads

Wearables refer to wearable technology - a segment that continues to see path-breaking innovation on a consistent basis. The next such advance in wearables could literally force you to roll up your sleeves as researchers have developed a fabric armband that is a touch pad in reality.

Problems with hydrogel

While computer trackpads and electronic signature-capture devices can now be found everywhere, these aren't widely used in wearables as yet. Even though there have been suggestions to make flexible touch-responsive panels using clear, electrically conductive hydrogels, it hasn't happened yet. This is mainly due to the sticky nature of these substances, which not only makes them hard to write on, but also irritating to the skin.

A group of researchers looked to solve this issue and decided to incorporate a similar hydrogel into a more comfortable fabric sleeve. For this, they sandwiched the pressure-sensitive hydrogel between layers of knit silk. Their results were published in ACS Nano in May.

In order to make the fabric electrically conductive, the top layer was coated in graphene nanosheets. By attaching the sensing panel to electrodes and a data collection system, a pressure-responsive pad with real-time, rapid sensing was produced. This meant that when a finger slid over it, numbers and letters could be written.

Interprets inputs correctly

The device was incorporated into an arm-length silk sleeve with a touch responsive area on the forearm. A user was able to control the direction of blocks in a computer game and sketch colourful cartoons in a computer drawing program using the armband in experiments. The three-layer, touch-responsive material can thus interpret user inputs and convert it into suitable outputs on a computer.

The success has led the researchers to believe that their proof-of-concept wearable touch panel can inspire the next generation of sketchpads and keyboards. With an armband converting a person's forearm into a flexible keyboard or wearable sketchpads, the way we play games, sketch cartoons, or even sign documents could well change in the future.

Picture Credit : Google 


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