The next innovation in wearables may come from a team at Dartmouth College, stemming from a concept smartwatch that literally moves to make itself more visible and improve interactivity. To that end, Cito – as the device is called – is effectively a screen mounted to motorized parts, with an array of sensors for detecting and reacting to certain situations. The proposed idea comes from a team comprised of Jun Gong, Lan Li, Daniel Vogel, and Xing-Dong Yang and the team posted a YouTube video demonstrating the new technology on April 6. It showcases several scenarios and use-cases that were studied for the development of Cito.
If you've ever worn long sleeves with your smartwatch, left it resting on a table while doing something else, or gotten notifications while carrying something you couldn't put down, Cito was created to make those situations problems of the past. As shown in the associated video, Cito's actuators enable it to rotate in place, extend up or down the arm, "orbit' around the wrist, tilt, or raise away from the wristband. Any combination of those movements can also be used to make interaction less of a hassle or more intuitive. For example, while carrying a box or other object, the screen can first "orbit" and then tilt toward the user. While wearing sleeves and working with something dusty, the team uses the example of cooking with flour, the screen can automatically extend to hide under the sleeve or to reveal itself if the user receives a notification. For when a user is distracted or has taken the watch off momentarily, Cito can set the screen at an angle or move in specific ways in response to specific types of notifications – effectively making the user more aware of the notification and what kind of notification it is. Similar movements can be used when trying to multitask with Cito. The Dartmouth team uses the example of trying to navigate with a smartwatch, while also sending messages. In that scenario, the watch screen can rotate like a compass to keep the user moving in the right direction while he or she uses a secondary watch app.
It should be mentioned that Cito is still early in its development stages. While it may eventually be able to do all of the above, it currently exists as a modular system with separate attachment platforms required for the different types of motion. If it ever makes it out of the proof of concept phase it will also, hopefully, look much more like a standard designer smartwatch. As it currently exists, Cito is just a screen with lots of wires and an uncomfortably large wrist apparatus. There is an also entirely separate box of sensors that would probably look very weird to wear in public. However, while making the prototype, the team behind Cito says a lot of research was conducted into user comfort and social acceptability of screen movements with a focus on getting everything functioning first. Unfortunately, a final consumer-ready model is likely a long way off but you can check out the video below in the meantime.