Incredible hack could give Apple Watch ability to detect objects you touch

This hack uses electromagnetic signals to detect objects.

Apple Watch is great at interacting with other smart devices, but a cheap hack allows it to recognize everyday (dumb) objects based on their invisible electromagnetic signals.

All it takes is a $10 chip that can be installed on any smartwatch. Check out the demo below:

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute and Disney Research came up with the tech, which they call EMSense. It basically turns your body into a giant antenna to read electromagnetic signals and detect what you’re touching. The hack works with most electronic devices but it can also discern some passive metal objects like ladders and door handles.

Carnegie Mellon graduate student Gierad Laput talked to Fast Company and explained that EMSense can detect the EM signals of any object that is capable of conducting electricity.

“[Most electronic devices] have EM signatures, but for passive objects like steel ladders — which are conductive — they pick up EM signals from their immediate environment, like fluorescent lights or power lines,” said Laput. “Meanwhile, non-conductive objects like pens and plastic chairs are not capable of generating EM signals.”

So what type of practical application could this have?

The researchers envision scenarios like using your watch to start a timer whenever you pick up a toothbrush or getting step-by-step tutorials beamed to your smartwatch or iPhone if you grab a power tool. EMSense could also come in handy in the kitchen, hospitals and the workplace.


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