SoundTrak: Continuous 3D tracking of a finger using active acoustics

The small size of wearable devices limits the efficiency and scope of possible user interactions, as inputs are typically constrained to two dimensions: the touchscreen surface. We present SoundTrak, an active acoustic sensing technique that enables a user to interact with wearable devices in the surrounding 3D space by continuously tracking the finger position with high resolution. The user wears a ring with an embedded miniature speaker sending an acoustic signal at a specific frequency (e.g., 11 kHz), which is captured by an array of miniature, inexpensive microphones on the target wearable device. A novel algorithm is designed to localize the finger’s position in 3D space by extracting phase information from the received acoustic signals.  We evaluated SoundTrak in a volume of space (20cm x 16cm x 11cm) around a smartwatch, and show an average accuracy of 1.3 cm. We report on results from a Fitts’ Law experiment with 10 participants as the evaluation of the real-time prototype. We also present a set of applications which are supported by this 3D input technique, and show the practical challenges that need to be addressed before widespread use.

To appear on IMWUT Issue 2/ Ubicomp 2017. [Paper] [Video]

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