People are increasingly starting to use wearable devices as a way to control other devices, but few companies have looked at the feet as a way to control things when the hands are full.
A team of researchers from MIT, however, is looking at changing this, and has developed a system that allows users to use their feet to wirelessly control their smartphones, appliances and computers.
The team is being led by Xavier Benavides, and it is working on electronics that are sewn into a regular, cushioned insole. The electronics themselves include an Arduino microcomputer, a 6-axis measurement unit with an accelerometer and gyroscope, and a Bluetooth module.
Of course, one of the biggest issues that the team is facing is the fact that people use their feet for all sorts of things—walking, for example. Most of the time, they won’t want to control electronics. To combat this, the team is working on two deliberate foot movements that can be used. The first is a “pushing away” gesture, and the second a “drawing-in” gesture. When these two gestures are detected, data is sent via Bluetooth, notifying an accompanying smartphone app of the movement.
The system can be used to either control the functions of a smartphone itself, or to control a nearby Bluetooth-controlled device, remotely operating it. For example, the user could zoom in with the drawing-in gesture, and zoom out with the pushing-away gesture. Or, the system could be used to turn on lights when someone gets home with their hands full of groceries.
It’s not yet known if the technology will be commercialized. The technology was presented in a paper at the 28th Annual ACM Symposium on User Interface Software & Technology, which is held in North Carolina.