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Chicago (IL) – A device dubbed Mimi Switch may change the way people use hands-free to interact with their iPod (and ultimately other gadgets as well). The Mimi Switch looks like a regular set of earphones, but also includes an infrared sensor which measures changes in ear geometry as various facial expressions are made, resulting in gesture-like input which can manipulate an iPod’s controls without having to touch the device.
A right-wink, left-wink, both eye blink, smile, jaw drop, sticking the tongue out, all of these things tug slightly on our ears, but each of them tug differently. By measuring the differences, the Mimi Switch device can send signals to an iPod which translate into device actions.
The interface could allow an iPod to skip a track forward with a right-wink, a track backward with a left-wink, stop with a both-eye blink, increase volume with a face stretch, pause with a pursed lips, etc.
Even beyond that could be responses to its internal music selection based on an assessment of your mood. For example, if the device senses you aren’t smiling as much as usual, it could begin selecting cheerful or upbeat songs from the playlist.
The vision for the Mimi Switch interface is not limited its operation to iPods. Future applications could include an eBook reader interfaces which allow someone to sit or lie comfortably with their arms in a relaxed position and the device perhaps balanced nearby. The reader could then use facial expressions to constantly turn pages or scroll without having to lift their arms.
There are also potential medical uses for the technology. Said Kazuhiro Taniguchi, its inventor, “If the system is mounted on a hearing aid for elderly people, it could tell how often they sneeze or whether they are eating regularly. If it believes they are not well, it could send a warning message to relatives.”
See a picture of the device on CNet.