In certain situations using a phone can be considered impolite, whether you’re in a business meeting or out to dinner with friends. The makers of NailO want to change that by creating a tiny sensor that sticks to your nail.

The team includes Cindy Hsin-Liu Kao and Artem Dementyev both graduates of MIT and authors of the paper that describes the sensor, and their advisors Chris Schmandt and Joe Paradiso, MIT associate professor of media arts and sciences.

NailO Fingernail Sensor Image 1

Brought to you out of MIT Media Labs, NailO Fingernail Sensor is a nail-mounted gestural input sensor that let’s you send emails, texts, or phone calls with a tap or swipe of your fingernail. The sensor was inspired by decorative nail stickers, and includes tiny hardware that uses Bluetooth to transmit information to a smartphone or PC.

NailO Fingernail Sensor is made up of a battery, a microcontroller, Bluetooth radio chip, and a capacitative sensor, and the device itself can be decorated with nail art, so it won’t be too intrusive. The team imagines a future version of NailO with a detachable surface membrane so wearers can switch them to match their outfits, right at the intersection of technology and fashion.

NailO Fingernail Sensor Image 2

Kao explains, “It’s very unobtrusive. When I put this on, it becomes part of my body.” The team hopes to present their concept at CHI 2015, a conference on human-computer interaction in Seoul, South Korea. The paper has already earned a “Best of CHI” honorable mention.

So far the NailO Fingernail Sensor concept comes with five gestures which can be detected in real time with 92% accuracy. They want to implement a two-second activation press before other gestures can be made, to avoid accidental gestures. Users will also be able to create their own gestures, for example swiping right to call dad.

They’ve already met with Chinese battery manufacturers and hope to have a battery that fits on a fingernail but only a half millimeter thick. Says Dementyev, “The hardest part was probably the antenna design. You have to put the antenna far enough away from the chips so that it doesn’t interfere with them.” So far the time frame for the NailO Fingernail Sensor is about three years to a commercial release.

Source: NailO Sensor MIT Media Lab

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Andrew Orr

Andrew Orr is a young man who loves gadgets, photography and cats. You can find him most places under the username @orrandrew91.