Imagine being able to securely open the front door to your home by simply touching the handle. Through a combination of your mobile device and your skeletal frame-which can uniquely identify you — this can happen today. No need to fumble through your belongings to find your keys or your cell phone — a device on your body, such as a watch, could do the unlocking for you. Need to transfer secure data or exchange information with a colleague or friend quickly? It can happen with a simple handshake — literally. Researchers in AT&T Labs are developing new technologies that allow all of this to happen.

How did the Idea Hatch?

The prototype for this technology is based on previous work in AT&T Labs that involved recognizing soft fingertip gestures (tap, rub, etc.) by listening to the sounds they make using a piezo-electric transducer. While testing the gesture recognizer, researchers transmitted music through the body to calibrate the system and realized that this idea could be extended to transmit data from body to solid object or body to body using vibrations.

About the Project

Bio-acoustic Data Transfer is demonstrated by key transmission through bone conduction. This is done by attaching a piezo-electric transducer to a mobile device, watch or other devices. When the user approaches the door, a unique digital key will be transferred to the lock. If the key matches, the deadbolt will unlock. This is made possible by a person's unique skeletal structure and bone density, so if the key is stolen it will not work for the intruder.

The Future

Additional research into Bio-acoustic Data Transfer is underway to ensure the accuracy of unlocking a deadbolt, as well as data transfer of short messages, like contact information. In the future, AT&T Labs researchers foresee multiple advancements in this technology, including:

  • Handshake Data Transfer. While shaking someone's hand for the first time your contact information or any other data that you wish to share, could be sent from one body to the other.
  • A safer home. If an intruder tried to enter your home, alerts could be sent through your mobile device to let you know.
  • Eliminating clutter. By essentially combining your house key and mobile phone, there is less of a hassle for a user by eliminating the need for a key.
  • Transferring data between devices. Alternatively to transferring data between individuals, this technology allows for easy document transfers between your devices, such as tablets and mobile phones.

About the Researcher

Brian Amento is a Principal Technical Staff Member at AT&T Labs — Research for 14 years, working in the Human Computer Interface Research group. Brian received his PhD in Computer Science from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. His research interests include novel interaction techniques, mining implicit social data and enabling ubiquitous collaboration. He has served as an adjunct faculty member at New York University and is currently a research professor at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. His current research work includes collaborative music listening, vibration based networking, and large multi-touch surface interfaces.

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