Many of the innovative products now available to consumers, such as the smartphone and the Apple Watch, are based on technologies that were developed in academic laboratories years ago. For example, several of the features of the Apple Watch, such as sending doodles and "touches" to other users, were demonstrated in a device called the Connexus, which was developed by researcher Eric Paulos more than a decade ago.
Aaron Quiqley, chair of Human Interaction at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, says academics interested in wearable technology developed much of the technology behind today's commercial products 20 years ago. Today, those same academics are working on other new futuristic technologies.
Paul Strohmeier of Ontario's Human Media Lab, for example, is developing a flexible screen that can wrap around a person's wrist and adapt its display by tracking a user's eyeballs. Other futuristic interfaces being developed by academics include drawing finger gestures in the air or projecting buttons onto the skin.
Other researchers are developing ways of transmitting tactile sensations through the air or enabling users to send aromas to someone's smartphone.
"Most 'breakthroughs' today are merely implementations of ideas that were unimplementable in that particular time," says Carnegie Mellon University's Ashwin Ashok. "It took a while for industry to catch up, but now they are almost on par with academic research."
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