But you won’t be snapping your fingers in front of your smartphone screen. This future of computing will be a combination of glasses, headsets and another wearable device for navigation.
Navigation is important as that’s the only mode through which you will be able to control the interface and give commands. And this is where most next-gen computing devices are stuck. Facebook seems to be working on a solution for this. As per the company, one of the best wearable devices for navigation may be a smartwatch.
Why Facebook is focusing on your wrists to deliver next-gen computing
The Facebook Reality Labs (FRL) Research is making “natural, intuitive ways to interact with always-available AR glasses” the company revealed this in its detailed blog.
The major challenge in creating an intuitive AR interaction has been building a system that is easy-to-use, reliable and offers privacy. Easy solutions include voice recognition or using a gamepad for navigation. While both get the job done, they are neither reliable nor private.
“Voice is intuitive, but not private enough for the public sphere or reliable enough due to background noise. A separate device you could store in your pocket like a phone or a game controller adds a layer of friction between you and your environment,” explains Facebook in a blog post. So, this is why Facebook believes the smartwatch on your wrist could be the best solution for navigation. A smartwatch that can read your finger movements.
“A wrist-based wearable has the additional benefit of easily serving as a platform for compute, battery and antennas while supporting a broad array of sensors. The missing piece was finding a clear path to rich input, and a potentially ideal solution was EMG,” it adds.
EMG to convert finger moverments into digital commands
So, what’s EMG? It’s ‘Electromyography’ and the technology uses “sensors to translate electrical motor nerve signals that travel through the wrist to the hand into digital commands that you can use to control the functions of a device.” For example, if this system ever becomes a reality then you may be able to disconnect a call by snapping your fingers.
EMG signals can let you send commands to your device. You can also personalise these commands. So, instead of snapping fingers, you can show a thumbs up to perform the same task. Or any other finger command that you wish to use and is supported.
“What we’re trying to do with neural interfaces is to let you control the machine directly, using the output of the peripheral nervous system — specifically the nerves outside the brain that animate your hand and finger muscles,” says FRL Director of Neuromotor Interfaces Thomas Reardon. He joined the FRL team when Facebook acquired CTRL-labs in 2019.
According to Facebook, wrist-based interaction along with EMG are the initial steps for its next computing platform. “EMG will eventually progress to richer controls. In AR, you’ll be able to actually touch and move virtual UIs and objects,” the blog post adds. All said and done, this smartwatch with EMG will need to work in tandem with an AR glass and headset for sci-fi movies kind of reality in future.