Beyond Touch: Tomorrow’s Devices Will Use MEMS Ultrasound to Hear Your Gestures

Touch screens are on the way out; piezoelectric gesture control is on the way in

10 min read
Opening illustration of hands
Illustration: Brian Stauffer

Today, we control our electronic world by touch—we tap, we swipe, we pinch and zoom. The touch interface went from being a novelty back in 2007, when Apple first brought it to the iPhone, to a ubiquitous feature in less than a decade. It is so commonplace that toddlers declare nontouch displays broken when the screen doesn’t respond to their fingers. But touch isn’t the end of the story. You can’t use it when you’re dripping in the shower, you can’t wear a touch screen on your eyeglasses, and you probably won’t explore virtual reality by swiping and pinching a handheld slab of glass.

Fast-forward to 2020, when, I predict, the touch interface will be used on a few phones and tablets, but not much else. You’ll start your morning run by sweeping your fingers near your fitness band. Tiny ultrasonic transceivers embedded in the band will sense the motion of your fingertips, identify the gesture, and turn on your favorite tunes. After your run, if your cellphone rings while you are showering, you’ll answer the call by sticking your arm out of the shower to pass your palm somewhere above the phone’s display. Later, in the car, navigation alerts and incoming text messages might threaten to distract you, but you’ll dismiss these with a flick of your hand.

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Video Friday: Drone in a Cage

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos

3 min read
A drone inside of a protective geometric cage flies through a dark rain

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your friends at IEEE Spectrum robotics. We also post a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months. Please send us your events for inclusion.

ICRA 2022: 23 May–27 May 2022, PHILADELPHIA
IEEE ARSO 2022: 28 May–30 May 2022, LONG BEACH, CALIF.
RSS 2022: 21 June–1 July 2022, NEW YORK CITY
ERF 2022: 28 June–30 June 2022, ROTTERDAM, NETHERLANDS
RoboCup 2022: 11 July–17 July 2022, BANGKOK
IEEE CASE 2022: 20 August–24 August 2022, MEXICO CITY
CLAWAR 2022: 12 September–14 September 2022, AZORES, PORTUGAL

Enjoy today’s videos!

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Remembering 1982 IEEE President Robert Larson

He was a supporter of several IEEE programs including Smart Village

3 min read
A photo of two men in suits.  One behind the other.

Robert Larson [left] with IEEE Life Fellow Eric Herz, who served as IEEE general manager and executive director.

IEEE History Center

Robert E. Larson, 1982 IEEE president, died on 10 March at the age of 83.

An active volunteer who held many high-level positions throughout the organization, Larson was the 1975–1976 president of the IEEE Control Systems Society and also served as IEEE Foundation president.

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Distinguishing weak signals from noise is a challenging task in data acquisition. In this webinar, we will explain challenges and explore solutions. Register now!
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