Hairware: Using Your Hair to Control Your Smartphone
The future of technology comes in many forms, such as expanding the typical input methods for devices. Hairware, invented by Katia Vega in Brazil, puts a control method into your hair. Hairware isn’t the first time that Katia created a unique input technology, as one of her other projects involved controlling a drone with eye makeup. She describes these unusual input devices as beauty technology.
What is Hairware
Hairware works by adding special hair extensions to your head. They differ from standard extensions by using conductive metallic filaments alongside typical hair filaments. The result is a natural look that provides a method for controlling compatible applications without pulling out a smartphone. The filaments act as sensors and detect when you touch it, with commands tied to touching the hair for a set number of times.
Since hair touching is a common part of body language for women, it ends up being a natural motion for a seamless control mechanism. The capacitive touch sensors can recognize several variations, such as multiple touches and locations on the extensions. Hairware is backed by a machine learning algorithm that interprets that touch and executes the associated action. The device has an Arduino and Bluetooth radio placed in the extension’s hair clip.
A Hairware design for men is also in development. For this option, Katia is focusing on beards and how to add conductive filaments and controllers to them.
Why was Hairware Invented?
Hairware gives women a way to discretely use a smartphone without it being obvious. The inventor’s intended use case is to give women more options when dealing with threatening situations. They can send text messages for help, record conversations, and share their location without anyone around them realizing it.
This technology can help with de-escalating situations, as an attacker, stalker, or bad actor doesn’t realize that help is on the way. Time is often of the essence when you’re in danger, and you reduce the response time when you don’t have to find an opportunity to pull out your phone.
Another market that could use this type of technology is intelligence agencies. Since controlling devices with your hair sounds right out of a spy movie, it makes sense that it could find a use in this area. It could also be used in a research capacity, with the sensors tracking how often someone touches their hair and how they handle it.
Benefits of Hairware
Hands-free control of smartphone applications:
You have a simple, seamless method for triggering the right action for your current situation. You don’t need to reach into your pockets or purse and fumble for your phone. Everyone reacts to high-stress situations differently. Being able to use a single touch of your hair rather than unlocking your phone and finding the right app can make a big difference. You have more control over the situation.
Configure multiple commands:
Since the hair clip of the extensions has a microcontroller and machine learning algorithm, you can set this device up with numerous commands.
Protection in dangerous situations:
You never know what will happen in your life, and being prepared to take on the unexpected is never a bad thing.
Natural-looking hair extensions:
The conductive filaments are treated in a way that makes them look like normal hair, and it’s also sandwiched between layers of regular hair filaments. You end up with a tech-forward interface that doesn’t skimp on the fashion and beauty front.
Innovative input method:
You don’t see hair control devices falling out of trees. This invention has helped create a foundation for other beauty-centric and women-focused technology options.
Applicable to many situations:
You may encounter many situations where discrete application control is a benefit.
Improve response time in emergencies:
You don’t want to waste any time getting the help you need in a given situation. You can instantly send out text messages and your location as required.
Drawbacks of Hairware
Limited scope of actions:
You don’t have an infinite ability to set up application controls, and some are better suited to this simple control mechanism than others.
Not commercially available yet:
The inventor has not yet manufactured this technology on a commercial level.
Extension style may not work for all women:
Women with unconventional hairstyles and colors may find themselves lacking a viable option.
Other wearables may be more practical:
Wearable technology is a continually advancing field, and other input methods may end up being more suitable for a given situation.
Hairware is not commercially available as of the publication date of this review. The inventor has not indicated a potential pricing range for this technology.
Technology Similar to Hairware
You see many alternative input methods in assistive and accessible technology created for the disability community. One example is Tobbi Dynavox PCEye, which empowers users with eye-based control of their computers. People who have limited or no use of their arms and hands find this technology particularly useful.
Brain-computer interfaces are another innovative advancement in input and control methods. Emotiv has an algorithm that recognizes specific brain patterns and uses those to control software, wearables, smart devices, and more. Much like the PCEye, people who are unable to use traditional device input methods benefit greatly from this option.
Hairware is an exciting look at the potential of seamless, fashionable interfaces that leverage the beauty world for its inspiration.