After much experimentation, researchers at Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics Research in Rostock and the University of Cologne in Germany have developed an electronically-augmented earplug that can read facial expressions and convert them into controls for your smartphone. For example, you may soon be able to answer a call with a wink or launch an app by moving your head to one side.
The prototype of this EarFieldSensing, or EarFS, technology consists of the earbud itself, a reference electrode attached to the user’s earlobe, and an Arduino along with four sensing shields in a companion bag.
Currently, the system can recognize five expressions–winking, smiling, opening your mouth, making a ‘shh’ sound, and turning your head the right–with over 85% accuracy while walking, and even better when sitting. Hands-free emojis would be an obvious use case, but perhaps it could be employed for covert signaling as well. Was that a nice smile, or are you calling in backup? It could also be quite useful while driving or for those with disabilities. (more…)