Excuse Me, But Is Your Leg Ringing?

Nokia files a patent for a haptic tattoo that lets you know someone is calling

2 min read
Excuse Me, But Is Your Leg Ringing?

Technology innovation—sometimes it's great, sometimes it seems like someone is pulling your leg. In this case, almost literally.

UnwiredView.com ran a story last week about a Nokia patent filing that it calls "borderline creepy," involving haptic technology and tattoos. Haptic technology, as described in the patent, "is a tactile feedback technology that takes advantage of a user's sense of touch by applying forces, vibrations, and/or motions to the user."

According to the story, Nokia's patent is "proposing the application of tattoos with ferromagnetic inks, that will vibrate based on commands from your phone."

The UnwiredView story shows the tattoo on a person's stomach. That might make sense for a certain demographic, but not one that I'm a member of. The story, which describes a bit more about the tattooing process for those interested, also speculates about the situations in which such a tattoo might be useful:

"There probably are some valid use cases for something like this. For example, in noisy environments when you risk not hearing your phone, this tech would make sure you know it is ringing. Or even at the exact opposite end of the spectrum, it could prove useful in very quiet situations, where even a phone set to vibrate can be heard and can be disturbing. Although with this use case we are already plunging into creepy territory."

The Nokia patent also says that:

"User sensing the ferromagnetic image may receive different perceivable stimulus via the ferromagnetic depending on the segmented area, where the magnetic field originated. Different segmented areas may be configured to output to the user different, distinguishable functions or features remotely via haptic stimulus. "

Apparently, this means that you could tell not only whether your were receiving a phone call, but a text message, and from whom.

Perhaps the military would be interested. Right now pilots and troops in combat get bombarded with visual and audible clues about threats which can easily overload (pdf) them to a point where they begin to lose situational awareness. Maybe some of that can be offloaded to the body.

The patent suggests some other uses as well:

"Another technical effect of one or more of the example embodiments is to provide potential for security applications and passwords which might be required in interaction with different electronic communication devices for example but not limited to lap tops, desk tops, mobile phones, gaming devices, personal digital assistants, internet tablets."

I can picture a version of the security systems that requires you to look at LCD screen and type in the code they see--except in this case, you would type, say, the long and short pulses (Morse code lives another day!) that the phone transmits to your stomach or leg.

Okay, let your own imagination roam—where else would this be useful? Meanwhile, I have a couple of questions. Could a hacker send you messages that cause painful cramps? And has Nokia tested the technology to see what happens at airport security gates?

Photo: Microsoft

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The Cellular Industry’s Clash Over the Movement to Remake Networks

The wireless industry is divided on Open RAN’s goal to make network components interoperable

13 min read
Photo: George Frey/AFP/Getty Images

We've all been told that 5G wireless is going to deliver amazing capabilities and services. But it won't come cheap. When all is said and done, 5G will cost almost US $1 trillion to deploy over the next half decade. That enormous expense will be borne mostly by network operators, companies like AT&T, China Mobile, Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone, and dozens more around the world that provide cellular service to their customers. Facing such an immense cost, these operators asked a very reasonable question: How can we make this cheaper and more flexible?

Their answer: Make it possible to mix and match network components from different companies, with the goal of fostering more competition and driving down prices. At the same time, they sparked a schism within the industry over how wireless networks should be built. Their opponents—and sometimes begrudging partners—are the handful of telecom-equipment vendors capable of providing the hardware the network operators have been buying and deploying for years.

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