May 9, 2014
The Nod Is Here, But Is It Lord Of The Rings?
How much of today’s technology would look like pure magic to someone brought up in another era? Time machines will probably never happen, but let’s take a leap into the future and assume for a moment that they do. It might be, in the not too distant future, the latest super-app for your all-in-one Life Controller that replaced PC, tablet, phone, TV, camera, car, Hi-fi, light switches, clocks, even your family, which is now held in a virtual space that you can call up at will. This new app is a time machine and you can use it to transport an unsuspecting character from the past to a virtual temporary existence in the present. Let’s say you choose a Roman from the first century AD (it was a random choice OK?) and all you want to do is scare the Toga off him by using your technology to make him think you have the gift of magic. A simple thing like TV would surely blow his mind, but if you were able to operate the TV, or perhaps turn the room lights on and off, open and close the blinds, or make music appear as if from nowhere simply by making tiny gestures activating a hidden controller on your index finger, our pre-tech Latin visitor would surely believe you had The Power, like Sauron in The Lord of the Rings. Do you fancy that? If so, your time is almost at hand – time for the “magic ring” that is. The time transporter will be a little later.
Enter the Nod. This is the latest incarnation in a series of attempts to use gestures to control devices. Nod is indeed a ring that sits on your finger and utilizes tiny movements to control a whole range of potential applications and technology. The wireless Nod uses Bluetooth LE technology, and is waterproof up to five times atmospheric pressure (so you don’t have to remove it in the shower and can use it when you are stirring your cocktail with your fingers). It has been developed by Nod Labs with some serious high-profile backing. The aim is for Nod to hit the market in the fall, but it can be pre-ordered at $149. The makers claim it will ultimately work with a whole range of gear, including PCs and Macs, phones, tablets, wearables like Google Glass, and any number of gadgets and devices with smart technology, including thermostats, TVs, and lighting systems. The prototype ring has an inner section of surgical steel for comfort to combat allergic reactions. It looks a little chunky, but will be slimmer and lighter in the final version. Different sizes will be available to fit all users.
At the heart of the technology is a collection of sophisticated motion sensors buried in the ring itself. The outer ring also boasts a touch-sensitive bar for scrolling and fully programmable extra controls in the shape of mouse-like buttons. It is supposedly extremely accurate, so much so that Nod Labs claim it will be good enough for high-end gaming. Not just a magic cursor then. Another potential use is for additional security with the ability to unlock or log into phones or computers. Charging is via a “ring holder” (and no, it’s not called Frodo) with a full charge giving up to a day’s use.
Gesture control, as in Samsung’s less than successful attempts in its smartphone range, has proved a hard nut to crack. Nod Labs think they have done just that by capturing micro-movements. Is this the breakthrough unit for gesture control? Initial reaction from tech writers who have tested the device and seen it put through its paces is very positive, but in the end, of course, the buyers will decide.