Wearable Tech World Feature Article
April 20, 2015

Thumbnails: the Trackpads of Tomorrow

As technology innovators look to watches, glasses, wristbands, even hats and shirts for inspiration, the minds at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are honing in on nail art. More specifically, they’ve taken a fad that is big in parts of Asia called nail stickers—which are exactly what they sound like—and applied it to create a wearable trackpad that fits on a human thumbnail.  

Possibly the coolest concept ending in the letter “O” since JELL-O, NailO is a thin, shiny, smart sticker that can control electronics as a trackpad would. The Bluetooth device sits on top of the user’s thumbnail, where it can easily be manipulated by the forefinger and/or middle finger.

via Shutterstock

A practical use case referenced in the video demonstration is the example of trying to cook from a recipe on a tablet, smartphone, or computer. NailO allows the user to wirelessly scroll and click on the device, keeping his or her hands free to continue working. A trackpad that fits on a thumbnail may also be useful in other areas of hands-on work that may require manipulation of electronics for reference, i.e. certain medical professions, or the management of small electronics and mechanical devices.  

The prototype can recognize five different gestures with 92 percent accuracy, but the development team believes that these numbers will improve with continued work on the concept, which will be exhibited this week at a conference in South Korea.

NailO is also engineered for personalization. Users can attach surface art of their choice to the trackpad, giving the function some form—an integral part of any wearable device, and one that many innovators might not be giving enough attention. In its current design, the trackpad lays over the circuit board housing the processor, sensing chip and Bluetooth radio. NailO is therefore a little thicker than nail art; however, downsizing the device is part of the developers’ aims for the future. According to an article from Computerworls.com, the team is already talking to manufacturers in China about a battery that is only half a millimeter thick.

The phrase “getting your nails done” just took on a whole new dimension.




Edited by Stefania Viscusi




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