iPod madness

March 9, 2009



“Engineers at Osaka University have developed a new system for controlling electronic devices that could enable people to navigate through the tracks on their MP3 player simply with a wink or smile.

The device – which has been nicknamed the “Mimi Switch” – consists of a small earbud that is capable of measuring movements in the wearer’s temple. Different actions or facial expressions result in a variety of actions, depending on how the system is programmed.

“An iPod can start or stop music when the wearer sticks his tongue, like in the famous Einstein picture,” suggested lead researcher Kazuhiro Taniguchi. “If he opens his eyes wide, the machine skips to the next tune. A wink with the right eye makes it go back.”

The team behind the system suggest that it could easily be integrated into headphones or glasses – and used to control a variety of other electronic devices, like home lighting or even washing machines.

The research paper detailing the Mimi Switch, which was actually published last year in the Journal of Robotics and Mechatronics, has suddenly resurfaced after being picked up online – but it is far from being the only invention of its kind.

Across the world, researchers in the field of human computer interaction have been testing out new ways of working alongside machines that seem more instinctive than the current mouse-and-keyboard norm.

I remember seeing one predictive text system – Dasher, from the physics department at Cambridge – that enabled you to type simply by breathing.

Meanwhile another innovative interface we’ve discussed in the past – the gestural system from 3DV – has been getting a lot of attention.

3DV’s ZCam, which allows you to control what’s happening on your computer screen simply by moving your hands, has reportedly been eyed up by Microsoft in a $35m deal. If you want to get an idea of how it works, here’s a video of me messing about with it at last year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas”.

Can you imagine London Underground? On the tube making facial movements all at the same time… as if the tube wasn’t scary enough.


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