Don't blink or you'll shut it off: The next iPod remote control

An Osaka University Graduate School of Engineering Science researcher successfully created a new technology that allows users to control their Apple iPod MP3 players, and possibly other items, by blinking and winking.

Kazuhiro Taniguchi built the technology, called Kome Kami Switch (Temple Switch), using a computer chip and two infrared sensors that can accurately differentiate between intentional blinks for controlling the iPod and inadvertent blinks. The chip and infrared sensors are small enough that researchers hope to be able to build the system directly into select glasses frames.

A user closes her eyes for one second to start the iPod, winks strongly for one second to rewind, and winks the other eye to go back one song. To turn the system off, she blinks both eyes for a full second. Users who can only wink in one eye will be able to modify the system to allow two successive winks to have a function.

According to Taniguchi, humans blink quickly and softly in what can be described as an energy-saving method, but people using the Temple Switch will blink more intentionally, in a way that's detectable and distinguishable electronically.

Since Temple Switch is a hands-free system, it can be used by cyclists, nurses, astronauts, and the disabled. The system could theoretically be utilized to operate TVs, mobile phones, home entertainment systems, and house lights. Osaka University and Taniguchi hope to be able to commercialize the technology within the next three years.

Taniguchi is currently working on a similar system where a user clinches his teeth to control an iPod or other device.

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