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IBM Research shows how health insights may come from fingernail wearable

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By Nancy Cohen

A tiny fingernail sensor has been worked up that monitors diseases and movement disorders. IBM Research tells their prototype story.

The IBM team designed the tiny fingernail sensors to help clinicians detect and monitor the progression of disease via AI analysis and grip strength. Why choose fingernails as the window to what is happening in our bodies? Two of the researchers, Stephen Heisig and Katsuyuki Sakuma, discussed this on an IBM site.

 

They said, “Since nails are so tough, we decided to glue a sensor system to a fingernail without worrying about any of the issues associated with attaching to skin.

Our dynamometer experiments demonstrated we could extract a consistent enough signal from the nail to give good grip force prediction in a variety of grip types.”

Why focus on grip? This device, attached to a fingernail, performs a continuous measurement of how the person’s fingernail bends and moves, in every-day activities such as opening a jar or chopping, which in turn is an indicator of grip strength. How can that reveal so much?

Actually, said IBM, grip strength is a useful metric in various health issues. Examples include (1) effectiveness of medication for Parkinson’s disease (2) the degree of cognitive function in schizophrenics and (3) mortality in geriatrics.

Sensors are involved in this setup along, with data delivered to an app. The information deals with such factors as pressure and motion.

“Our system consists of strain gauges attached to the fingernail and a small computer that samples strain values, collects accelerometer data and communicates with a smart watch.”

SiliconANGLE described their components, as two parts: “The first is a compact computer that sits atop a user’s finger, while the other is an array of strain gauges meant to be attached to the fingernail. The strain gauges record the subtle ways the fingernail moves and changes its shape as the wearer uses their hands.”

Interestingly, the smartwatch form factor receives the information. “The smartwatch processes the data using artificial intelligence algorithms that IBM has developed specifically for the project,” said SiliconANGLE.

This is where IBM’s smarts come into play: Analytics and machine learning identify patterns of grip strength, tremors and other symptoms. This essentially is offering a window on how the person’s brain and body are working.

SiliconANGLE said, “its AI can not only identify abnormal movements but also distinguish between different activities. The software is accurate enough to tell, among other things, if the user is writing and even determine when they’re drawing numerical digits.”

Two of the researchers, Stephen Heisig and Katsuyuki Sakuma, wrote on the IBM site: “It turns out that our fingernails deform – bend and move—in stereotypic ways when we use them for gripping, grasping, and even flexing and extending our fingers. This deformation is usually on the order of single digit microns and not visible to the naked eye. However, it can easily detected with strain gauge sensors.”

The eight-member team’s paper has the details of their health monitor prototype, and it is titled, “Wearable Nail Deformation Sensing for Behavioral and Biomechanical Monitoring and Human-Computer Interaction,” published in Scientific Reports. Katsuyuki Sakuma, Avner Abrami, Gaddi Blumrosen, Stanislav Lukashov, Rajeev Narayanan, Joseph Ligman, Vittorio Caggiano and Stephen Heisig are the authors.

“Here we describe a wearable strain sensor, associated electronics, and software to detect and interpret the kinematics of deformation in human fingernails,” they wrote. “To the best of our knowledge, no system has integrated both nail strain and accelerometer information to explore human hand biomechanics and enabled an unconstrained human-computer interaction.”

Some of the tech-watching sites drew on the bigger picture view of what this could mean at a time when technology intersects with healthcare—namely, an interesting interface that could add some momentum to wearables in healthcare.


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Tech-Film

Xiaomi has been working on improvements for in-display fingerprint scanning

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By Nancy Cohen

Fingerprint sensors—modern tools of convenience or awkwardly placed tools that are just plain difficult for instant use?

Aamir Siddiqui in XDA Developers is no stranger to the shortcomings in present-day in-display fingerprint scanners. He thinks they have “a long way to go before they can completely and perfectly replace the conventional fingerprint scanners,” but he foresees change.

 

“In-display fingerprint scanners are fast gaining popularity, and we are surely going to see a lot more of them in 2019. While the current generation in-display scanners may not be quicker or even more reliable than the conventional fingerprint scanners, future generations of this tech will continue to improve on these areas to provide a better experience.”

Better news does seem to be in the wings; The Verge’s Sam Byford, who covers Asia happenings, reported on in-display fingerprint sensors being worked on by Xiaomi.
The news revolves around a new type of in-display fingerprint scanner technology which has been confirmed by Xiaomi President and co-founder, Lin Bin. GSMArena similarly described a “next gen under display fingerprint scanner.”

The new sensor will solve one big issue, and that is being unable to unlock the phone without having to look at the screen. User to fingerprint sensor: Hey, you’re reading one tiny tiny area of my screen. Just.

“This means you have to be very specific about where you tap your finger, and makes it almost impossible to unlock your phone without looking at the display,” wrote Hadlee Simons in Android Authority.

Byford reported on a video demonstrating a prototype phone with a new fingerprint sensor that has an active area of 25 x 50mm. Translation: users could unlock it more easily by tapping, Byford said, “within a much larger region than the thumbprint-sized scanners found on several phones released last year.”

Siddiqui similarly noted that “Xiaomi claims that you can unlock the phone without looking at the screen now, which shows off their confidence in the larger recognition area.”

Bam-boom. “You can set up your finger with only one tap and then unlock the locked screen with pressing pretty much everywhere,” said GSMArena. Since the active authentication area is 25mm x 50.2mm, said Simons in Android Authority, “it’s an exponentially bigger area than that found on commercially available in-display fingerprint sensors right now.”

GSMArena added, “According to Lin Bin, the unlocking area is 50 mm by 25 mm, which is more than five times the UD area now and over 15 times the standard scanner on the back, used by Xiaomi.”

On Friday, Ajaay Srinivasan, The Mobile Indian provided some background: “The news comes from a video posted on Bin’s Weibo account which revealed the latest implementation of the advanced in-display fingerprint scanning technology. The video reveals a Xiaomi prototype device feature a new fingerprint unlock sensor which spans for an area that measures at 50 x 25 mm.”

Dates? Byford said Xiamoi president Lin Bin did not mention when such a device would become a shipping product.

GSMArena noted what Bin had to say moving forward. If it has a “great reception among fans, the company will consider placing the scanner in future devices.”

If you have ever fumbled around trying to access your fingerprint scanner, you will appreciate this video, posted on January 15, showing Xiaomi’s improved access design where unlocking does not mean you are required to look at the screen.

Beyond the obvious advantage of being able to access the scanner more easily on the screen, there is another plus that was noticed by Sahil Kapoor in iGyaan: “Notably, the fingerprint sensor appears to be very fast and accurate.”

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Xiaomi Mijia Laser Projector 4K With 150-Inch Virtual Screen Launched in China

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Although ordinary projectors are still a popular option, laser projectors have been gaining prominence in the last couple of years. These projectors are designed differently, allowing for a shorter throw area and the ability to project even in a well-lit room. The latest laser projector to make the news comes from Chinese electronics company Xiaomi through its Mijia brand. The company has launched the Xiaomi Mijia Laser Projector 4K in China, priced at CNY 9,999 (approximately Rs. 1,05,000). As the name suggests, the projector sports a 4K resolution on its virtual 150-inch screen projection.

The new Xiaomi Mijia Laser Projector 4K is the successor to the previous Mijia Laser Projector, which was previously priced at CNY 9,999 but came with a full-HD resolution. The latest product keeps the price and virtual screen size the same, but bumps up the resolution to 4K (3840×2160 pixels).

For now, the product is available as a pre-sale offer, and can be booked for an advance payment of CNY 100 (approximately Rs. 1,050). As with other laser projectors, the Xiaomi Mijia Laser Projector 4K can be placed near a wall or projector screen, and directly project onto it from a short throw. This allows for easier placement as compared to traditional long-throw projectors, along with a virtual screen size of up to 150 inches.

 

The Xiaomi Mijia Laser Projector 4K comes with built-in speakers, three HDMI ports, one USB port, and sockets for audio and Ethernet cables. You also get smart connectivity with the MIUI TV interface and a remote to control the projector. Unlike the TV range, the projector is a part of the Mijia brand from Xiaomi.

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Ultimate Ears Boom 3 Wireless Speaker with ‘Magic Button’ Launched in India

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Wireless speakers come in all shapes, sizes and prices, but there has been a tendency for certain products and brands to stand out from the competition. One such popular brand has been Ultimate Ears (UE), the personal audio manufacturer owned by Swiss computer peripherals manufacturer Logitech. The Boom range from Ultimate Ears has been among its most popular lines, and the latest product from the line is the Ultimate Ears Boom 3. The new wireless speaker has been launched in India, priced at Rs. 15,995.

The Ultimate Ears Boom 3 is set to go on sale on Amazon India starting January 17. The product will be available in three colour options – Black, Blue, and Red. The speaker comes with an IP67 water resistance rating, which means that it is certified to survive significant exposure to water and dust, and can therefore be used safely outdoors. Interestingly, the Ultimate Ears Boom 3 floats in water, a feature that would appeal to a lot of buyers.

Another new feature on the UE Boom 3 is the ‘Magic Button’, which is said to make music control and playback easier. The speaker does retain the cylindrical design of its predecessors, although the styling has been refreshed. However, the familiar ‘plus’ and ‘minus’ physical volume buttons are still there. The USB port has also been repositioned to make charging the speaker a bit easier.

 

As the successor to the capable Ultimate Ears Boom 2, the UE Boom 3 was launched in August last year globally, and has taken a few months to see a launch in India. Interestingly, the UE Boom 2 is also still on sale for around Rs . 10,000.

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