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New lip-licking controller LipIO uses your tongue to control devices

LipIO tongue gesture control device

A team of researchers at the University of Chicago has developed a new smart device called LipIO that uses our tongue to control various connected devices and perform hands-free actions. The device has a thin film-like build that attaches to one of the lips and utilizes it as an input/output surface.

It is made up of two flexible sandwiched electrode arrays, out of which the outer one is used to take inputs using capacitive touch. Meanwhile, the inner lip-facing layer provides output through electrotacticle stimulation (a way of providing haptic feedback).

The user can lick the outer layer with their tongue or lower lip to record inputs for various tasks. LipIO can provide "co-located tactile feedback" to the let the user know where exactly on the lip their tongue is making contact. This ensures that the device can deliver hands-free and eyes-free interactions to the user.

LipIO can detect various input gestures like touching the lip at a particular point, sliding the tongue from one end to another, or pressing both lips against each other. Researchers note that the device is not affected if the user speaks while wearing it.

The list of use cases includes situations like unlocking a door using lip gestures while hands are occupied. It can also work as a lip-based guitar tuner where lip gestures can be used to invoke or dismiss the tuner and haptic feedback is provided to let the user know how much a particular note is off.

Not just utilities, the LipIO can also double up as a gaming device. The researchers demonstrated a lip-based gaming interface where the user can play Whack-A-Mole by licking different parts of the electrode array to catch the mole. While LipIO can find its use in various day-to-day situations, it "can provide a degree of accessibility to those who cannot interact via eyes and/or hands," the team writes its research paper [PDF].

Other than that, the tech also has potential use cases in VR experiences where it can be used to "render a more realistic sense of taste." For instance, the researchers talk about tasting virtual ice cream in VR. However, LipIO is still developing and more work is required to reduce its hardware footprint.

Source: University of Chicago via Engadget

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