Technology 3 min read

New Wearable Computer Input Device for Surgeons

Researchers created a wearable computer input device to help surgeons use computers without the need for peripherals during preoperative planning.

PopTika / Shutterstock.com

PopTika / Shutterstock.com

A team of Canadian researchers has developed a device for the wearable computer input device. Users simply have to touch their fingers together in different ways to make it work.

Currently, we have various input devices for computers. These include keyboards, mouse, scanners, microphone, joystick, and, more recently, touch input.

Unfortunately, these input methods are not practical in some situations.

For example, during preoperative planning, surgeons can’t use the computer’s touchscreen or mouse themselves since it requires constant sterilization. So, they rely on assistants to navigate the system and communicate the information.

As you can imagine, the process is painstakingly slow and prone to error. An alternative is to use big gestures that can be tracked using computer vision, but that can be tiring too.

So, the researchers at the University of Waterloo devised an ingenious solution.

They developed a cheap, battery-free computer input device, called Tip-Tap, which uses RFID tags to sense when fingertips touch. By adding the device to a disposable surgical glove, surgeons will be able to access preoperative planning diagrams in their operating room.

A professor in Waterloo’s David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science, Daniel Vogel said:

“The idea is if you mount Tip-Tap in surgical gloves, surgeons could navigate the computer themselves from where they are, and it won’t affect their other actions like picking up the scalpel.”

So, how does the device work?

Developing a Computer Input Device For Surgeons

To create the device, the Waterloo team had to map the palm first. They had to identify the most comfortable areas on the index fingers for people to touch with their thumb.

They also tested various designs – magnets, smooth, and bumps – for the input points. Following these tests, the researchers developed an early wired prototype of the input device to benchmark performance.

The next step was to remove the wires and make the device battery-free.

For this part, the team had to split the antenna of an RFID tag in two. Then, they equipped each side with three chips to enable two-dimensions of fingertip input.

Not only can users integrate the new RFID tag into a glove, but they can also attach it directly to the skin like a temporary tattoo.

“We used this design in two prototype Tip-Tap devices, a glove with a range of four meters, and an on-skin tattoo,” Vogel noted.

That way, users that cannot reach or hold an input device can issue simple commands remotely. Aside from surgeons, other usage contexts include factory workers and people exercising in the gym.

Tip-Tap is the only device of its kind. And the researchers created the prototype as part of a new partnership with the National Research Council of Canada (NRC).

Read More: Using the World’s Biggest Chip to Develop an AI Supercomputer

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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