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Texture & Motion Sensor From Autodesk Research, an Innovative HMI

Cabe Atwell

November 9, 2012

2 Min Read
Texture & Motion Sensor From Autodesk Research, an Innovative HMI

Unique ways of interaction between humans and devices are inching us closer and closer to living in that sci-fi vision of the future. Google Glasses and leap motion are platforms for a simple and almost astonishing interaction between people and their computer counterparts. Autodesk, makers of AutoCAD, and researchers from the University of Alberta and the University of Toronto are creating another interface unit called the "Magic Finger" that turns any surface into an extension of a linked device.

The Magic Finger is a peripheral that fits around the index finger like a thimble and can be used to perform functions on a main device to which it is paired. It is equipped with an ADNS 2620 low-resolution, high-speed optical flow sensor that senses X-Y motion, and a high-resolution AWAIBA NanEye micro RGB camera with modified HDNS-2100 lens that detects the surface being touched. The NanEye camera is 1mm x 1mm x 1.5mm so it fits easily over the pad of your index finger. This micro camera is like the one used in optical mice, and it requires light, so the team also fit a 5mm white LED on the device. This LED can also function as an indicator for desired output.


Since the device can detect surfaces as well as motions (up to 32 textures, accurate to 98.9 percent), it can be customized to perform certain functions with certain gestures while also differentiating between surfaces. So, for example, a swipe over your skin could make a phone call home, and a swipe over a white wall might call your voicemail. Pinch gestures, finger tapping, reading QR codes, multi-surface crossing gestures, and stickers with shapes on them as disposable remote controls are just a few of many interaction techniques the team has thought up. The team even suggested using Magic Finger as a periscope to see what is causing all that traffic.

The prototype was tested by hooking it up to an Arduino UNO and an HP TouchSmart Tm2 running Windows 7. This was done only for the sake of prototyping. The device, when finished, will be free standing, and it will connect to and control cellphones, laptops, and other wireless devices (like Google Glasses) via Bluetooth. Magic Finger will be powered by some sort of rechargeable battery or by "harvesting power from the body or environment," as the team stated in its research paper. The paper published was written by Xing-Dong Yang, Tovi Grossman, Daniel Wigdor, and George Fitzmaurice from the previously mentioned institutions. Sure it may need a name change, but the idea could be a game changer.

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About the Author(s)

Cabe Atwell

Cabe is an electrical engineer, machinist, maker, cartoonist, and author with 25 years’ experience. When not designing/building, he creates a steady stream of projects and content in the media world at element14, Hackster.io, MAKE ─ among others. His most recent book is “Essential 555 IC: Design, Configure, and Create Clever Circuits.

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