Tuesday 14 October 2014

Apple Watch Digital Touch

Apple have shown the new watch to the media. This has a Taptic Engine or "Digital Touch". It allows a person's  heartbeat to be transmitted as an actual bump to another person.

Image from Apple.

 I designed and built similar technology for Microsoft, more  here in 2005. This used an optical sensor in a mouse to measure heartbeat and transmit to another user as a haptic bump in their hand.  There is no patent and all in public domain.

image from 2006, mockup but working hardware tested

Recently I have been evaluating this technology for mobile phones. All the hardware exists in mobile phones, e.g. camera and vibrator.

Sunday 25 May 2014

SenseGrip - Tablet computer with real control knobs

This concept design allows physical controls to be added to any Android 7" tablet pc. This allows easy grip silicone rotary knobs to be used for frequently used features such as volume, scrolling, video position, camera settings,  radio tuning controls etc.
Many of us prefer real physical controls, e.g. photographers, musicians, assisted living applications.  A current 7" tablet pc is like handing a slippery sheet of glass.

 Each rotary control is a digital potentiometer with 1024 bits of resolution, tactile feedback  and is also a push switch.   Physical push switches are also provided, these can be used for power on/off. High power speakers are also included. The device can be used in portrait or landscape mode, the tablet's accelerometer automatically sets this and also the stereo speaker orientation (tablet's speakers or device).   Additional sensors such as local and  remote temperature sensors can be added. The device is clipped onto the tablet computer, automatically detected  and communicates via Bluetooth Low Energy. A USB charger socket  is provided  for the internal battery. Size 200mm x 30mm x 8mm. Powered by ARM microcontroller with Bluetooth. The controls illuminate in the dark.  A silicone grip allows easier hand control for the tablet computer. A tilting hinge is also included. In portrait mode the device can be held in either left or right  hand. Sensors in the hand grip allow for medical sensors in future designs. Tactical feedback can also be provided.
CAD image of device next to 7" Tablet

The device is also designed  for photographers. 4 physical rotary controls can be assigned:

  • aperture
  • shutter speed
  • zoom
  • manual focus 

a push switch for the shutter
Tilting holder provides trip facilities  for time lapse, webcam  or life logging photos
flash for camera as omitted on some tablets.

There is a device that provides camera buttons for the iPhone but it has dedicated controls for a camera function only, e.g. the Red Pop. There is also an accessory for the iPad to provide easy grip but no controls.

The new device can be created with a 3D printer including the integral control knobs. Their position is detected using a  low cost robust non carbon potentiometer.

This design can be built as a working 3D printed prototype.
Design by Lyndsay Williams, Cambridge
+44 (0) 7970 101578

Monday 24 February 2014

Wearable Computers - A cure for Sleep Paralysis?

This is a paralysis that occurs on waking from sleep, usually in the early morning in some people.
Here is an introduction to sleep paralysis,  report  from the NHS.   The mind works, the person can control breathing and possibly also foot movement, but the rest of the body is paralysed. The sensation may only last a few minutes but is terrifying, Drugs can be used to cure it but a non invasive method may be preferred.  Sleep paralysis  also seems to run in families and I suffer from it at least once a week. Every time I have it I am determined to find a fix or cure for it, but on waking and the morning arriving,  the fear has gone.
 I now  have time for revisiting  sleep paralysis. I also had previous not put much effort into it as I thought of interest to only a few people but  it may occur in up to 8% of the population.
The proposed  sensor device is attached to  the foot close to the toes under a band aid  (the person can wriggle toes in sleep paralysis).   A bio sensor detects motion and wakes up the person fully by a piezo  alarm. The sensor will be washable and reusable and should cost around £20.  The software algorithms require the right degree of sensing so every time some one moves in bed they are not woken up, only when in sleep paralysis.  Breathing is easier to detect but quite invasive to go to sleep every night with a chest  monitor (I did this once for 4 weeks but not again).

There has been prior work on using sensors for detecting sleep paralysis but the devices were quite cumbersome for wearing every night.  I also build a  proof of concept for  an Early Onset Epilepsy detection system for the p3i  Lab of Northumbria University in 2011.
Here are some earlier notes I did on sleep paralysis in 2012. I proposed an ankle chain but in the last two years we now have a smaller  ARM computer 3mm x 3mm x 1m with built in accelerometer, and tiny Lithium Polymer batteries so can fit under a band aid.

ST Microcontroller 

Most of the research work will be in the software for optimising the real time filtering algorithms and user trials.  The hardware proof of concept can be tested with the Texas SensorTag.

Contact Lyndsay Williams sensecam@gmail.com or +44 (0) 7970 101578.