Thumbnail trackpad could soon control your smartphone or laptop

A team of researchers at the MIT Media Laboratory has developed a new device that turns your thumbnail into a wireless trackpad.

The miniature wearable, called NailO, connects to mobile devices including smartphones, tablets and laptops via Bluetooth.

It’s still very much a work in progress, but its creators say it will come in handy when users have their hands full or want to communicate discreetly – while cooking or stuck in a meeting, for example.

NailO contains capacitive sensors, a battery, microcontroller, Bluetooth radio chip, and capacitive-sensing chip.

According to CNET, the wearable of sorts is currently able to detect five different gestures with an accuracy of 92 per cent.

“The hardest part was probably the antenna design,” said Artem Dementyev, one of NailO’s project leaders. “You have to put the antenna far enough away from the chips so that it doesn’t interfere with them.”

Despite coming across as a high-tech solution to a common problem, NailO was actually inspired by a cosmetic product – the colourful stickers that some people apply to their nails.

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“It’s a cosmetic product, popular in Asian countries,” said Cindy Hsin-LiuKao, the paper’s other lead author. “When I came here, I was looking for them, but I couldn’t find them, so I’d have my family mail them to me.”

The MIT research team plans to develop the product further, but don’t expect it to see it on retailers’ shelves just yet.