Stretchy, Transparent Gaming Controller Acts Like a Second Skin

A hydrogel forearm cuff works as a touchpad for gaming, playing music, and scrolling through notes on a computer screen.

It's finally happened. Our bodies can now become one with the game controller.

A stretchy, skin-like controller created by materials scientists at Seoul National University promises to turn a forearm into a touchpad for gaming, playing music, and scrawling notes that appear on a computer screen.

RELATED: Pokémon Go: Top 10 Hazards of Augmented Reality Gaming

The team, led by researcher Chong-Chan Kim along with Jeong-Yun Sun, a professor of materials science and engineering, imagines a future where we ditch brittle electrodes for soft, biocompatible technology. No more stiff touch panels for human-computer interactions. So they got to work on a transparent hydrogel one.

They developed the panel using a hydrogel made from polyacrylamide, which is a water-soluble acrylic resin, and lithium chloride salts that act like a conductor. Electrodes on both ends of the panel create a uniform electrostatic field. Pressing on it closes the circuit, allowing the current to flow to the touch point.

Current meters at each corner pick up the signals and transmit them to a separate controller board that connects to a computer, the scientists report in the current issue of Science (abstract).

WATCH VIDEO: Why Video Games Make You Aggressive

"The epidermal touch panel is capable of detecting motions such as tapping, holding, dragging, and swiping," they wrote in their paper. By pressing the panel with one finger, the team could play music on a computer keyboard, move virtual chess pieces, write out letters, and control a video game.

RELATED: Chair Turns Your Butt into a VR Controller

While it's not the most precise touchpad -- the finger-drawn letters spelling "Hello world!" were a little shaky -- having this much control on such a tricky surface is impressive. Their advancement made me think of John Rogers' electronic tattoos, wearable sensors in the works at UC San Diego, and Zhenan Bao's electronic skin work at Stanford.

This controller is even more stretchy than I anticipated. Apparently it still operates after being stretched to more than 1,000 percent of its normal size, the team reported. Following repeated use, the material does lose some of its flexibility, possibly because a bit of the hydrogel water evaporates. Might need a special moisturizer -- just like a real arm.

Body language is a powerful tool. It lets people know what we're feeling and whether or not we want to engage. Those same motions can send signals that control gadgets, computers and other electronic devices. From televisions to cars and even brain scans, these gesture-controlled devices only need a wave of the hand to do your bidding.

New technology from Elliptic Labs makes it possible to control smartphones from up to seven feet away. The company's “Ultra-fast Ultra-far Interaction” technology lets users wave a hand to perform functions such as scrolling, swiping, clicking and highlighting. This can come in handy when taking that group selfie, of course. But it also keeps the phone's screen clean and can be adapted to other electronic devices such as large displays.

If you've ever used Kinect, you know what it's like to get your TV to do what you want with a wave of your hand. What if you could do the same with all aspects of TV viewing? The nTobeBox from eyeSight Mobile Technologies and Innodigital, lets you control your TV, sans remote. It runs on Android's Ice Cream Sandwich platform and kind of resembles an inside out version of that dessert treat. The set top box streams content like apps and video calls while also broadcasting conventional TV.

This webcam is screen-mounted and designed to work at close range on Intel's new line of Ultrabooks. They will have 3D depth array and a dual microphone. This will make it possible to use facial recognition and analysis to determine details like age and gender of the user. Intel claims these kinds of features could enhance even the smallest tasks such as online shopping for glasses, by allowing users to virtually try things on. The Web camera will also provide users a way to control objects or applications on the screen by reaching out or waving their hands.

Making gestures in your car conjures up images of aggressive driving behavior, but a gesture-controlled vehicle system from Harman is anything but vulgar. The company has built a concept car with a dashboard that interprets movements such as nods and winks as commands. For example, to turn off the radio a driver can wink and adjust the volume by nodding. She can also adjust the air conditioner and answer a phone call using hand motions. Harman says the advance could reduce distractions and help drivers keep their eyes on the road. It's capable of recognizing the difference between intentional gestures and accidental ones. So if you do "accidentally" flip someone off, you won't turn off the radio.

When a surgeon in Portugal decided that he needed more access to brain scans during surgery without having to compromise sterility, he contacted a software company. YDreams created an interactive program called YScope. The software is integrated with Microsoft's Kinect and allows doctors to manipulate scans and images for optimal viewing without ever having to touch anything. YScope is still in testing phases, but interest is building worldwide, so the company plans to have it on the market by the end of the year. via DW

Flutter uses a computer's webcam to control music on Spotify and iTunes, no extra hardware needed. To start a song, all one has to do is hold a hand up, same goes for stopping it. Future plans are in the works to control playback on Netflix and YouTube as well as adding the ability to advance slides on PowerPoint. The app is compatible with both Mac OS and Windows. Best part about this app? It's free.

First there was the computer mouse, then the trackball, then the wireless mouse. Now there's the invisible mouse. The idea comes from MIT researcher Pranav Mistry and his team at the Media Lab who have developed a mouseless mouse using an infrared beam and a camera. The user cups his hand the same way he would on a mouse so that the laser beam reflects onto it. The camera reads the light beam and converts that into cursor movements. For example, a tapping finger changes the light size and sends a message to the camera that initiates a click on screen. The researchers think movements like zoom are possible as they progress. And since the working prototype was built for about $20, the final product could be much cheaper than standard mice.

The designer for this device, JC Karich collaborated with a team to create something that looks seemingly low-tech with high-tech results. A tiny wooden tube, described as an "interactive sound object," works as a speaker but also tracks hand gestures to be a remote control. To make adjustments such as changing volume, a user moves his hand up and down above the wooden tube or swipes to change songs.

If you see a guy making that lame "call me" sign to you at the bar, don't be alarmed, he may just be talking on this odd Bluetooth glove. Hi-Call gloves are pretty much a Bluetooth headset for your hand. The speaker is in the thumb and the mic in the pinky of these black gloves. They earned the title "Best Product" at this year's IFA. They'll be available for purchase this month.

With this concept device, framing a scene and clicking a camera shutter is as easy as holding up your fingers. The Air Clicker consists of two pieces that fit fit over your fingers like rings -- one for your thumb and one for your forefinger. When you bend the finger to "snap" a photo, a tension sensor activates and sends a message to the camera to capture the image. The Air Clicker connects with a smartphone through Bluetooth to safely store images in the device.

Open Sesame. Say the words and your laptop opens. Well, almost. In this concept prototype from design student Tobias Toft, a laptop opens and closes via tapping, snapping or knocking. The webcam and microphone sense a person's position, which makes it possible to adjust the computer's height, making sure each user has the best viewing angle.