Tuesday December 16, 2003Next time you notice someone sticking their finger in their ear in a public space, don't assume that it's just poor etiquette - they could be on an important call. This wearable telephone handset under development by Japanese telco NTT DoCoMo transforms the human hand into an active part of the receiver using bone conduction.FingerWhisper consists of a watch-like unit worn on the wrist that converts incoming sounds into vibrations that it sends through the bones to the tip of the index finger.The user can then hear the conversation by simply placing the tip of the finger in their ear.The device has been in development since 1996 when researchers began investigating whether bone conduction could be viably integrated into mobile phone design. Given that a conventional handset can't be made too small without being impractical to talk and hear at the same time, the concept seeks to think outside the squre by eliminating both the speaker and the keypad from the equation.In the Finger Whisper design, the latter is replaced by an accelerometer that can detect the tapping action of fingers and enable finger tapping combinations to replace physical buttons on a keypad - for example one tap may signify 'hang up'. According to NTT DoCoMo approximately 30 commands can be issued based on a 5-stroke tapping sequence.The advantage of using bone conduction - which is alreading being integrated into headsets - is that it works well in noisy environments and allows the user to speak at a lower volume of voice compared with standard handsets.The process of taking calls on the wearable phone is natural and unlikely to attract any extra attention because it looks like the user is utlising a normal mobile handset.NTT DoCoMo has also developed a 'conventional' mobile handset called Wristomo that can be worn like a watch and removed for making calls.
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