You can’t feel it, but pretty much all devices give off an electromagnetic noise that is unique to that machine, and is often transferred through your body. Using that fact, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and Disney Research have found a way to create a smartwatch that knows what the wearer is holding or touching.
The research team started by modifying a cheap wearable radio to detect the signals from the electromagnetic noises, and then created smartwatch software that can tell the difference between the noises different devices make.
The wearable tech they ended up creating is called EM-Sense, and it knows when you’re opening a door or using a computer or brushing your teeth.
This technology really expands smartwatches beyond a device that can only connect to your smartphone. A smartwatch could now do things like automatically time how long you’re brushing your teeth, or automatically start to read your to-do list when you open your office door. It could also kick in while you’re driving and turn off messaging functions to avoid distracting you. The technology offers a wide range of additional functions that are equally both useful and impressive. It really is remarkable at the capabilities of technology, but also slightly terrifying to know that smartwatches will now know wherever you are and adapt to this environment.
So far, Apple and Android have not begun looking at the EM-Sense technology for their wearables or smartwatches. The hardware involved would be quite cheap to miniaturize and mass-produce, but the software would have to be adapted a little to fully function in unison with all the devices in the average person’s life. But until it is ready to be integrated, it’s still fun to think about how you’d never have to set a timer for pretty much anything ever again.