A new Japanese gadget allows its wearer to control an iPod with simple facial expressions such as a wink, a smile or sticking out his or her tongue. Just be careful who you’re looking at when you’re winking on the subway.
The switch looks like a pair of regular in-ear headphones, but they’re outfitted with infrared sensors in the earbuds. These sensors can detect the changes in your eardrum that result from various facial expressions.
The headphones can detect when the wearer blinks, winks, widely opens her eyes, a twitch of the nose or a smile. Since the infrared sensors are located inside the ears, they aren’t adversely affected by sunlight.
The earphones can be programmed to control a wide variety of devices other than an iPod. The input could be used to help the disabled control their lights or appliances in their home.
Creator Kazuhiro Taniguchi envisions a multitude of uses for the Mimi Switch or Ear Switch. The device could learn to monitor its wearer and change music based on how often she smiles or look for warning signs of health issues and send aid.
“It monitors natural movements of the face in everyday life and accumulates data,” says Taniguchi. “If it judges that you aren’t smiling enough, it may play a cheerful song.”
These devices could prove to be a novel addition to the iPod, but have even broader applications as an input device for the disabled. If the switch can discern between enough different gestures, it could be used as a keyboard by people with extremely limited mobility.
While the Mimi Switch isn’t available on the open market as of yet, Taniguchi plans to patent it in Japan and abroad. Would you be willing to use this device in public, even though you would make some pretty funny faces?