Wearable clips onto your steering wheel for eyes-free smartphone control

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The O6 controller addresses the common risks of distracted driving through a combination of intuitive hardware and unique software

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We all know that smartphones can be an addicting distraction, oftentimes drawing our attention away longer than may be considered safe. Team O6 by Fingertips Lab has created a wearable gizmo that offers a way to operate your phone without the need to look at or reach for the screen. The O6 controller is designed to use touch, voice, and gesture input to control apps and listen/respond to messages completely eyes-free.

Vehicular accidents can happen in a matter of seconds, so it's any wonder that distracted driving is a growing concern. Studies have shown how our "sixth sense" fails while texting and that using a HUD (heads-up display) may not provide the intended safety. O6 addresses the common risks of distracted driving through a combination of what appears to be intuitive hardware and unique software.

At 40 mm in diameter (1.57 in) and 11 mm (0.43 in) thick, the O6 controller looks like an over-sized jacket button – or perhaps a smartwatch with a funky orange clock face. Underneath its water-resistant, anodized bead-blasted aluminum exterior lies a haptic motor, motion sensors, Bluetooth 4.0 LE connectivity, and a rechargeable battery (all common to smartwatches). The O6 is designed to work with iOS devices – Android compatibility to be set at a later date – and also supports wired or Bluetooth connections to speakers, headphones, or car audio.

Through the rotary command dial and tactile buttons, which support multi-click actions, users can effectively interact with mobile devices in a one-handed or -fingered, non-visual way. The orientation-independent design removes the need for having to first determine up or down before using the device. The dial cycles through items/icons on screens, while the buttons provide context-sensitive actions and a means to select options.

The O6 controller features a different type of voice interface, one that addresses the types of interactions used by smartphones. Instead of requiring users to dictate commands, all one has to do is listen to the voice feedback and choose appropriately. Not only does the O6 software narrate emails, directions, texts, news posts, social feeds and more, but it's designed to analyze content and context in order to present the typical actions people would likely want to perform. Ambitious stuff, indeed.

A magnetic steering wheel mount allows the O6 to be placed within easy reach of fingers while driving. Other (optional) accessories let users attach the device to a wristband or an on-the-go clip for belts, pockets or bags. The O6 controller offers greater utility with the way it can work as a remote control for media apps or smart home devices, all without having to touch a smartphone. It can even double as a haptic watch for the visually-impaired, similar to Eone's timepiece, the Bradley.

The team behind the O6 controller is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, having raised 21 percent of a US$100,000 goal in less than a day, with another 39 days left to go. Pledges for one O6 start at $89 in choice of color, which also includes the charger mount. Accessories are sold separately.

You'll always want to take crowdfunding moonshots like this with a few grains of salt: especially when custom software is involved (in this case, including the difficult for anyone to live up to claim of responding to context), delays are all too common and the end result is seldom what was originally envisioned. There's also the fact that 06 is competing with cars' built-in infotainment systems – while those have historically been awful, the slow-trickle arrival of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay have things gradually improving on that end. If you already have a quality solution built right into your car's HUD, using a wacky wearable device that requires mounting your smartphone onto your dash sounds a bit redundant.

The company does say it has working prototypes and has lined up manufacturing partners. If everything goes according to plan, backers can expect shipments of the O6 controller to start as early as February, 2017.

Check out the video below to see how O6 is meant to work.

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