Researchers at MIT Media Lab are working on a wireless input device that could act as a very subtle robot remote. Known as NailO, the prototype wireless trackpad is so small, it fits on on your thumbnail. Just stick it on your nail, swipe it with another finger and NailO can control a Bluetooth-enabled device.
“It’s very unobtrusive,” Cindy Hsin-Liu Kao, one of people who created NailO, said in a press release. “When I put this on, it becomes part of my body. I have the power to take it off, so it still gives you control over it. But it allows this very close connection to your body.”
The top of the NailOfeatures track pad electrodes, that sense finger swipes. That layer flips up to reveal a microcontroller, Bluetooth radio chip, capacitive-sensing chip, and battery.
“The hardest part was probably the antenna design,” says Artem Dementyev, another member of the NailO team. “You have to put the antenna far enough away from the chips so that it doesn’t interfere with them.”
The researchers weren’t thinking of robots when they built the device. They intend it more as a remote for your phone or iPad, to be used when your hands are otherwise occupied. But its small size could make it ideal for stealthy robot remote. Nail art stickers can be applied on top of the device, to further disguise its appearance.
While the device is already quite small, the researchers hope to reduce its size even further. They are currently investigating a potential power source that’s just half a millimeter thick and hope to include a special-purpose chip that would act as the micro-controller, radio, and capacitive sensor.