It seems as though yet another projector-enabled wearable project has been undertaken in the pursuit of a smartwatch that extends well beyond the usual timepieces. The project, headed by Carnegie Mellon University's Chris Harrison and several researchers from that institution and ASU Tech Co. Ltd., resulted in a prototype called LumiWatch. Unlike some of its predecessors, however, LumiWatch goes a bit further than simple projections and allows for touchscreen-like interactions with the projected image on a wearer's arm or hand. Of course, it's worth pointing out that this is only a prototype and not necessarily something that will ever enter production. Moreover, it's not exactly sleek, aesthetically appealing, or even all that usable in its current form. With that said, based on an associated YouTube video uploaded by one of the researchers, Robert Xiao, the group really didn't intend for this to be a final design. It acts more as a proof of concept, intended to show that a final product could be built which would be much more acceptable in the mainstream.
The premise is fairly straightforward and centers around a self-contained system comprised of a heat-dissipating aluminum shell, battery, projector module and driver, a 1D sensor array, and a logic board. That's built around a 1.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm APQ8026 SoC coupled with a 450 MHz GPU. Bluetooth 4.0 and a WiFi controller are a part of that package, rounded out with 768 MB of RAM, 4 GB of flash memory, an inertial measurement unit, and an ambient light sensor. The software is based on Android 5.1. The built-in laser projector casts an image that's around the average screen size of a large smartphone at just over 6-inches. Through continuous 2D finger tracking, and an initial "swipe to unlock" for calibration, touches on the projected interface are calculated.
As shown in the associated video, included below, there are a few problems that need to be overcome before this project becomes a real-world product for sale. Aside from being bulky, at 50mm x 41mm x 17mm, pricing would also be a big obstacle to this device appearing in the real world. As of this writing, the researchers believe the prototype could feasibly be created at a retail cost of $600. What's more, the projections themselves will need to be calibrated in a much more concise way to achieve a truly screen-like experience for end users. But that's without considering that the researchers noted issues with different skin types or in the hair on a user's arm – let alone problems with brightness with outdoor use compared to indoor use. So it's likely to be quite some time before the imagined wearable shows up on shelves or for sale online if it ever does at all.