A research group led by Prof. Bing-Yu Chen of the Department of Information Management won the Best Paper Award at the 2013 ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI), which is considered the premier conference in the field of human-computer interaction. Despite competing against the over 2,000 papers submitted to the conference, the group’s paper, “NailDisplay: Bringing Always-Available Visual Display to Fingertips,” managed to stand out from all the others. In addition to being honored at the conference, the paper was also widely reported on in international media outlets, including Reuters news agency and New Scientist magazine.
ACM CHI is an annual conference organized by the ACM SIGCHI (Special Interest Group on Computer Human Interaction). This year’s conference was held in Paris, France, April 27 - May 2.
The group’s winning paper introduces an innovative device called NailDisplay. NailDisplay is a small fingertip display that is worn a like a ring. The prototype model consists of a 0.96-inch OLED display that is five millimeters thick, an ATmega32U4 microprocessor, sensors and a vibrator.
The group designed it to augment the use of finger on touch screens as well as information and telecommunications devices without displays. This novel fingernail display provides not only visual feedback but also integrates with the device being operated to allow for user-input touch controls.
The paper describes three display and user-control applications of this technology that can benefit people. For starters, NailDisplay displays the part of a touch screen covered by the user’s finger, making the fingertip in effect transparent. This allows the user to not only view the screen in full but also to conveniently and precisely select small user input elements on the screen. In another application, NailDisplay complements a screenless device that uses an imaginary interface. It helps users learn an imaginary interface—for instance, invisible virtual buttons positioned in line along the arm—and allows them to reconfirm the interface when the user’s memory of it becomes unclear. Finally, NailDisplay can be used as an independent device that is controlled with rich finger interactions, such as swiping in the air. As a mobile phone, it permits the user to view information and make phone calls with the wag of a finger.
NailDisplay is not simply a novel piece of technology, it represents a conceptual breakthrough. While touch screens have always been all about “you get what you see,” NailDisplay upends this concept by emphasizing “you see what you touch” and integrating touch control with visual display. Prof. Chen’s group looks forward to creating a world in which there is no place without touch control by taking this technology out of the laboratory and into peoples’ daily lives.