Metallic make-up lets you launch drones with a wink

Just a wink and a smile to switch on the LEDs <i>(Image: Dicky Ma)</i>When Katia Vega winks, strange things happen: a miniature drone takes to the air, or a hundred LEDs in her hair sparkle like a Christmas tree. It works because she has developed a range of conducting cosmetics that let her activate electronics with a flip of her eyelids.

Demonstrated on 10 October at the Interactive Tabletops and Surfaces conference at the University of St Andrews, UK, the aim of her “beauty technology” is to provide an alternative way to make quick micro-interactions – like those possible with wearable computers like Google Glass.Smartphone users have to fiddle with their phones for half a minute to take a picture, whereas Glass only requires a quick tap on the side to accomplish the same task.. With Vega’s “Blinklifier” it could be done with a wink. “We use voluntary movements to amplify intentions – using our body as a new input device,” she says.

Vega, a computer scientist at the Pontifical Catholic University in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, has developed metallised false eyelashes and conducting eyeshadow that complete a very low voltage circuit when she winks. Both are said to be chemically safe for use on the skin.

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