With their small screens and our bulky fingers, smartwatches aren’t the easiest devices to control. Researchers have invented new ways to interact with them that ease the fumbling, however.
Among their enhancements to LG and Sony watches:
• Scrolling through apps running your fingers along the watch band
• Launching eight smartwatch apps by tapping key points on the watch case (or bezel)
• Rejecting phone calls by blowing on the screen or tapping the side of the watch
• Editing dictated text message errors by breathing on the screen
• Transferring on-screen information from the watch to a phone with breaths
• Selecting numbers by tapping the back of your hand
The research was presented at several conferences in the fall, most recently in Niagara Falls at the 2016 ACM International Conference on Interactive Surfaces and Spaces in November.
Cheng Zhang, a PhD student at Georgia Institute of Technology, oversaw WatchOut, an interaction technique that uses taps and scrolling gestures on the case and watchband, “outside” the watch screen. They’re possible because of the watch’s gyroscope and accelerometer sensors.
“Other techniques that improve control of smartwatches have included 3D gestures above the screen, bigger screens, or adding an extra armband,” Zhang says. “We wanted to show it could be done with existing technology already common on today’s devices.”
One demo app allows wearers to scroll up, down, left, and right by swiping on the watchband. According to Zhang it makes it easier to interact with GPS maps or menus. His study shows that scrolling on rubber watchbands was more accurate than leather bands due to the different friction of the materials.