The latest entry into the field of wearable tech comes from an unexpected source: Disney. In collaboration with Carnegie Mellon University, Disney Research revealed on November 9 the prototype for a smartwatch that doesn’t just operate within itself — it interacts with the real world.
Many electronic everyday objects give off very small amounts of “electromagnetic noise” during use.
Disney’s watch, using what it calls “EM-Sense,” can detect and recognize those unique EM levels when the watch-wearer makes contact with an object. The human body — which is conductive — actually serves as a sort of radio antenna through which the signal travels. The signal is then sent to the watch, so it can identify the object for the user.
Disney does not yet have its own watch for the EM-Sense, so it used a Samsung Galaxy Gear for the demo. It’s also not yet quite as simple as putting a watch on your wrist, as it requires some wiring to a sensor.
Still, the prototype Disney watch hopes to be the wearable tech that actually applies to your daily life. Some features are more novelty than practical. For instance, the watch sets a timer when it recognizes you’re brushing your teeth, which feels fairly juvenile. (The person in the video, for what it’s worth, gets impatient and looks at the watch after six seconds on the 60-second timer.) Other features, though, such as the place-specific reminders, could prove to be quite useful.
As it’s still a prototype, it’s not clear if Disney’s watch would offer other, simpler smartwatch features (like a calendar or the ability to answer a phone call). But instead of being just a smartphone companion, Disney’s EM-Sense watch could be the piece of wearable tech that stands up on its own merit. If it’s possible to make.