Image of Tip-Tap Technology
Tip-Tap technology attached to a person's hand. (Credit: University of Waterloo)

Computer scientists have created a device for wearable computer input suitable for many situations, just by touching your fingertips together in different ways. The device, called Tip-Tap, is inexpensive and battery-free through the use of radio frequency identification (RFID) tags to sense when fingertips touch. The device could, therefore, be added to disposable surgical gloves, allowing surgeons to access preoperative planning diagrams in an operating room.

In developing the method, the researchers mapped the most comfortable areas on the index finger for people to touch with their thumb, and tested different designs for the input points, such as smooth, bumps, or magnets. Following user tests with an early “wired” prototype to benchmark performance, they tackled the problem of making it “battery-free.”

The researchers were able to make Tip-Tap battery-free by splitting the antenna of an RFID tag in two and equipping each side with three chips to enable two-dimensions of fingertip input, the first time this had ever been done.