MIT NailO – put a trackpad on your thumb

Anthony Caruana
20 April, 2015
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Cindy Hsin-Liu Kao, a media arts and science graduate student, has created the NailO – a wearable input device. It’s a nail art sticker that works as a miniaturized trackpad the size and thickness of a fingernail that can connect to your mobile devices.

Part computer peripheral and part fashion accessory, NailO allows wearers to perform different functions on a phone or PC with different gestures.

The hardware consists of four layers. On the top is a decorative nail sticker layer that personalizes the look of the NailO. Then there’s a matrix of sensing electrodes, a printed circuit board with an ATmega328 microcontroller and MTCH6102 capacitive touch controller that sends data to your computer using Bluetooth LE. A tiny 10 mAh lithium-polymer battery powers the device.

It’s fair to say we’d still like the additional control we can manage with a mouse, full-size trackpad or graphics tablet for different applications. But we can also see applications for the NailO as a complementary device. For example, it could make moving the cursor easier while we’re typing as our hands don’t have to move far away from the keyboard. There are also industrial applications for control systems.

While it’s early days – the team that developed the prototype is presenting their work at an upcoming computer-human interaction conference in South Korea – the NailO looks to have great potential.

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